Receding gums are a symptom of gum disease (periodontal disease). The gum line begins to pull away from the teeth, exposing more of each tooth. Untreated, receding gums will eventually expose the roots of your teeth and lead to tooth loss and other serious periodontal problems.
Your gums are the Skin of Your Teeth. With the help of periodontal connective tissue, your gums fit firmly and snugly against each tooth, completely covering the more sensitive roots. Receding gums expose roots, cause a loss of attachment between the gums and teeth and also create gaps (pockets) where food may collect and bacteria may breed.
The following are common symptoms of receding gums:
- Sensitive Teeth –Teeth may become more sensitive to hot and cold drinks or sweet, sour or spicy foods. The more vulnerable roots of the teeth are exposed to the usual food and temperature stimuli in your mouth. Teeth with healthy gums can comfortably handle all kinds of temperatures and spices, but exposed roots are more sensitive.
- Exposed Roots – The roots of the teeth are exposed and visible.
- Notched Teeth – At the gum line, the teeth feel notched, indicating that the gums are receding beyond the normal position.
- Longer Teeth – Teeth appear to be longer because the receding gums expose more of the teeth and their roots.
- Two-Color Teeth – The covering of the roots, known as cementum, is a different color than tooth enamel. Consequently, receding gums that expose roots and reveal two-color teeth.
- Bigger Spaces between Teeth – The receding gum creates an illusion of space because the gums no longer fit as snugly around the teeth.
Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, is a mild form of gum (periodontal) disease that may also indicate an underlying condition of receding gums. Symptoms may include:
- Puffy, red or swollen gums
- Gum bleeding while brushing or flossing
- Bad breath (halitosis)
The most common causes of receding gums are:
- Periodontal Diseases – Bacterial infections destroy gum tissue and the supporting bone that holds the teeth in place. Periodontal diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis, a more advanced form of gum disease, are the main causes of receding gums. Because the gums are the Skin of Your Teeth, it’s essential to take care of the gums to protect the teeth.
- Poor Dental Hygiene–Dental plaque, a biofilm that covers the teeth, consists of bacteria and the sticky substances they secrete. Inadequate brushing and flossing permits plaque to accumulate, causes cavities and erosion of enamel, and eventually hardens into tartar. Tartar must be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist. If the tartar collects above the gum line, it can cause gingivitis, receding gums and gum disease.
- Brushing Harshly – Using excessive force to brush the teeth may damage both the enamel of the teeth and the gums themselves. A soft toothbrush is best to remove food and stimulate the gums. The PeriClean Ultra-Soft Toothbrush, designed by a dentist, will help keep teeth clean and gums (the Skin of Your Teeth) healthy.
Other risk factors for receding gums include:
- Use of tobacco products
- Hormonal changes
- Grinding and clinching teeth
- Crooked teeth or misaligned bite
- Body piercing of the lip or tongue