A bright, perfect smile is the envy of all. However, many habits and lifestyle factors contribute to the deterioration of dental health throughout our lives. Stains can be noticeable and yellowed teeth can be embarrassing, but what about receding gums? This subtle but harmful dental issue can cause serious problems if left unchecked. From poor dental health habits to genetics, numerous factors influence the rate of gum recession. Nonetheless, there are treatments and even preventative methods to keep your mouth at its healthiest.

Cause: Poor Dental Health

One of the leading causes of gum recession is poor dental health. Brushing with a hard-bristled toothbrush or letting your flossing routine fall to the wayside are contributing factors to gum recession. Failing to use antibacterial mouthwash can cause plaque buildup, which helps bacteria grow and erodes enamel and gums. Failure to regularly see a dental professional for regular cleanings and exams can also lead to imbalances of oral pH and dental issues.

poor dental health Receding gums GoodLifeStudio / Getty Images


Cause: Periodontal Diseases

Periodontal diseases affect the gums, so they naturally are the most threatening to gum health. These include gingivitis and gum disease. Since these diseases affect the structure of the teeth, they also lead to jaw issues if left untreated. Bleeding gums is often a symptom in the initial stages of periodontal diseases, so people who notice excessive bleeding despite regular flossing and brushing should contact a dentist.

disease Receding gums Ismailciydem / Getty Images


Cause: Genetic and Hormonal Factors

Factors beyond oral health can affect the gums and cause then to recede. Changes in female hormones such as estrogen, especially during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or menopause, can cause gum sensitivity by increasing blood flow to these areas. Genetics can also influence the rate of gum recession, as some people are genetically predisposed to gum problems.

hormonal Receding gums AleksandarNakic / Getty Images


Other Causes Of Receding Gums

Researchers have discovered a direct link between diabetes and gum recession. This may be because of poor blood sugar control, which leaves the body weaker and makes it more difficult to develop strong and healthy gums. Smoking and tobacco use can contribute to gum recession and plaque, as do grinding and clenching the teeth and jaw. Likewise, a misaligned bite could put too much pressure on the gums and speed recession.

Receding gums causes PeopleImages / Getty Images


Symptoms of Receding Gums

Many people fail to realize they have gum recession in the early stages, but there are several symptoms to look out for:

  • Loose teeth
  • Gingivitis
  • Bleeding gums when brushing
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Sensitivity to cold or hot food or drink, mainly because of the exposure of the sensitive root.
  • Persistent bad breath

Receding gums teeth jhorrocks / Getty Images


Treatment: Change Dental Habits

One of the best ways to treat receding gums is by changing your dental habits. Once a person recognizes they have receding gums, it is best to avoid overly acidic food and drink to protect the teeth and the gums. They can improve dental health by switching to a softer toothbrush and maintaining a good brushing, flossing, and mouthwash routine, switching to a more sensitive toothpaste and using an antibacterial mouthwash to fight plaque and bacteria. Dentists might recommend some patients use a mouth guard overnight if grinding and clenching are an issue, and braces and other attachments can address misaligned bite.

Receding gums habits PeopleImages / Getty Images


Treatment: Minor Surgery

If a person has gum recession that is relatively unadvanced, a deep cleaning may suffice. Also known as open flap scaling or root planing, these procedures involve removing the harmful bacteria from between the gums and teeth and reattaching the gums to the teeth. Some people may require this procedure relatively frequently. Still, it is not a major surgery and can extend gum longevity.

Receding gums treatment South_agency / Getty Images


Treatment: Major Surgery

If gum recession becomes a serious threat to long-term dental health, the individual may require may want to consider gum grafting, which removes gum tissue from elsewhere in the mouth and attaches it to the areas of gum recession after bacteria has been removed. The dentist then sutures the graft to the existing gum tissue. The main types of gum grafts are regular gingival grafts, subepithelial connective tissue grafts, and acellular dermal matrix allografts.

surgery Receding gums RapidEye / Getty Images


Prevention: Improve Dental Health

Improving dental health is a great way to prevent or minimize gum recession in the future. Quitting smoking and avoiding tobacco products will help in the long term, not just with oral health but physical wellbeing, too. Most dentists recommend using a toothpaste that contains fluoride, as this vital mineral is important to dental strength. Consider buying an electric toothbrush from a brand dentists recommend. Some studies show they clean more effectively than manual toothbrushes.

Receding gums dental health DonNichols / Getty Images


Prevention: Improve Physical Health

Physical health is directly tied to oral health. A healthy diet should consist of calcium-rich foods that can strengthen teeth. Leafy greens and vegetables that balance internal pH are also vital to include. Green tea can help as well, but it can stain the teeth so moderation is best. People with diabetes should keep on top of their blood sugar and its effect on dental health. Taking care of both the mouth and the whole body can help keep the gums healthy and intact for years to come.

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