Receding gums are a real problem for many – and not just for aesthetic reasons. The hard enamel covering the visible part of your teeth doesn’t extend to the roots. Those are covered by a much softer, permeable material called cementum – softer even than dentin, the delicate tissue that the enamel protects. As the gums recede, cementum is exposed and is rapidly worn away, exposing the dentin. The result is painful tooth sensitivity to sweetness, temperature changes or pressure, as well as a higher risk of caries (cavities) on the root.
Gum recession can result from gum disease, as well as clenching and grinding habits, improper occlusion (how your teeth come together) and any other number of factors. Even incorrect or overzealous cleaning techniques can play a role.
So what to do about it?
If dental hygiene is the main cause, the first thing you want to do is correct any problems so as not to aggravate the situation. You can read about the recommended home cleaning tools and how to use them in this previous post. (Yes, tools. Plural. When it comes to dental hygiene, just brushing isn’t enough.)
If you use a Water Pik or other irrigator, you can add herbal medicament to the water that help support healthy gums. (The one we recommend is Under the Gums from the Dental Herb Co., which you can buy through our office or directly from the company.) Using an irrigator not only cleans but stimulates the soft tissues. Gently massaging the gums with a rubber tip can also be helpful.
That said, because there are other factors that can contribute to gum recession, you should consult your dentist to determine the root cause. If you just treat the recession alone, you’ll only wind up causing the problem all over again, necessitating further treatment.
With a holistic or biological dentist, treatment may begin with developing a personal and specific nutritional plan to create optimum biochemical balance. Understanding your particular dental situation, they may also be able to recommend specific supplements and remedies to further support tissue growth and health. To locate such a dentist in your geographic area, visit the referrals pages of the Holistic Dental Association, the IAOMT or the IABDM.
In severe or advanced cases of recession, a dentist or periodontist may recommend soft tissue grafts. Typically, a dentist or oral surgeon does these by using tissue from the roof of your mouth (though some dentists will use freeze-dried tissue or synthetic fibers), assuring compatibility. Though this may sound a little intense, from the patient’s perspective, it’s a painless and easy procedure. This article (PDF) gives a good overview of the treatment, as well as some nice before and after images.
The most important thing, though, is to not do nothing. Gum recession is reversible, and – as with any problem – the earlier you deal with it, the better the results.