Have you noticed that one or more of your teeth are becoming longer? It is possible that you have gum recession. Find out the causes and treatments for this condition.
Receding gums, or ‘gingival recession’, is when the gum tissue wears away from the tooth, forming pockets or gaps, and exposing the root of the tooth. While it can be an aesthetic issue, it is also cause for more serious concern. As bacteria builds up in these gaps, the supporting tissue and bone structures are damaged which can eventually lead to tooth loss.
If you start to notice you teeth are longer than they used to be, below are some possible causes.
Gum Recession Causes
- The biggest factor is periodontal disease. This may have started as redness or swelling with irritation in the gums and is usually due to poor oral health. To prevent gum disease you should visit your dentist every six months for a check-up and hygiene appointment where built up calculus is professionally removed. Correct tooth brushing twice daily and flossing every day, together with the use of antibacterial mouthwash will also prevent periodontal disease
- Overly aggressive brushing can cause tooth enamel to wear away. Use a brush labelled soft or use an electric toothbrush with indicators when you are brushing too hard.
- Genetics. If one of your parents suffered with gum recession, there is a chance you may too.
- Grinding your teeth, often subconsciously at night (ask your partner!) is a factor that is easily remedied by a visit to the dentist who can make an occlusal splint, or night guard, for you to wear to protect your teeth
- Misaligned teeth
- Hormonal changes due to puberty, pregnancy and menopause make you more vulnerable to gum recession
- Lip or tongue piercing. Jewellery can rub against the gums, wearing them away
Treatment for ‘Long Teeth’ or Receding Gums
The good news is that you don’t have to live with long teeth as gum recession can be treated. Always see a dentist immediately you suspect you are having gum problems, even if it is just that your gums are bleeding when you brush. If you are only mildly affected, your dentist will advise changing your dental habits, the use of a soft brush and maybe a night guard if bruxism, or grinding, is the issue.
Pocketing will require deep cleaning, also called tooth scaling and root planing, to remove the plaque and tartar that has built up on the teeth and below the gum line. The exposed root area is then planed, or smoothed, to make it more difficult for bacteria to attach itself. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to treat infection.
If gums cannot be treated with deep cleaning because of excess loss of bone and deep pockets, gum surgery may be required. Your dentist will refer you to a periodontist who is a specialist in this field. Often this type of surgery can extend your gum and restore the appearance of your teeth.
As always, prevention is better than a cure and regular dental visits every six months are the key. Early detection will avoid further, more invasive and expensive treatment.