The expression “getting long in the tooth” refers to gum recession, but this oral health problem isn’t necessarily connected to age.
Gum recession is when the edge of the gingival tissue moves away from the crown of the tooth, exposing the root. The reason we tend to think of it as an age-related problem is that it tends to be so gradual that it takes many years to become noticeable, but it can begin at any age — even in childhood! — for a variety of reasons.
Unfortunately, gum recession isn’t always avoidable, because it can be caused by genetics. Some people simply have more fragile gum tissue or they don’t have enough jaw bone surrounding the roots of their teeth to support the gums all the way up to the crowns. However, other contributing factors are easier to control, so even people who are predisposed to gum recession can still minimize it.
Bruxism (chronic teeth-grinding) can cause all kinds of problems for oral health, and one of them is an increased risk of gum recession. Grinding puts a lot of pressure on the gums, and they can’t always hold up under it and begin to recede. The habit of grinding is often difficult to break, particularly for those who grind in their sleep. If you struggle with bruxism, come talk to us. You don’t have to fight this alone.
Dentists spend so much time encouraging patients to brush their teeth more that you might be surprised to learn that it’s possible to brush your teeth too much. It’s certainly possible to brush them too hard. We call this overbrushing, and it can lead to enamel erosion and gum recession.
This problem is an easy one to avoid. Always keep in mind that brushing teeth is not the same as cleaning tile grout. Soft bristles are better for our gums and tooth enamel than hard bristles, and two minutes twice a day is usually enough. If you’re brushing so hard that your toothbrush bristles rapidly bend and fray within a couple months, it’s time to ease up. The same applies to flossing. Daily flossing is essential, but be gentle on your gums.
Gum disease, particularly in the advanced stages, destroys the supporting gum tissue and bone around teeth. It’s the main cause of gum recession. The best way to fight it is with good oral hygiene habits and regular dental appointments. Professional cleanings are absolutely crucial for maintaining good gum health, because once plaque hardens into tartar, it can only be removed by the dentist. The longer it remains, the more irritation it can cause the gums.
It’s true; even kids aren’t completely safe from gum recession. The causes are the same for adults: improper brushing and flossing (specifically, overbrushing), bad oral hygiene, and teeth grinding. It can also come on as the result of an injury to the mouth. As with gum recession in adults, the best treatment is prevention through good oral health habits.
If you’re worried that your gums may be beginning to recede or you want to learn more about how you can prevent gum recession, schedule an appointment with us! We can help you take care of your gum health and discuss treatment options if needed.
Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.