Are your teeth looking a little longer these days? If so, you may need to change some lifestyle habits because your gums may be receding. Receding gums can increase your risk for sensitivity, cavities, and tooth loss. Although gum recession is a gradual problem, you don’t want to let it get out of hand.
What Are Receding Gums?
Gum recession is a form of gum disease that occurs when the gum tissue pulls away from the teeth. If left untreated, the gums can recede so much so that the roots of the teeth become exposed. That can cause irritation when brushing, eating, or drinking liquids at varying temperatures.
Gum recession is most common in people over the age of 65, but it can affect people of all ages. You are more likely to develop receding gums if you had braces or other orthodontic treatment, periodontal disease, or use chewing tobacco. Interestingly, brushing your teeth excessively or having a lip or tongue piercing also increases your risk of receding gums. About 88% of people over the age of 65 have gum recession on one or more teeth, and you can learn about more causes below.
You Have Plaque Or Tartar Buildup
If you don’t brush and floss regularly, your gums can recede. Dentists explain that poor dental hygiene can cause plaque (a film from bacteria and food) and tartar (hardened plaque that causes tooth decay) to build up along the gum lining. Not only can plaque and tartar inflame the gums, but they can also make them more susceptible to recession. If you want to prevent plaque buildup, brush your teeth twice daily for at least two minutes at a time. Floss once a day and consider using an antibacterial mouthwash to encourage optimal oral health.
You Grind Your Teeth
Repeatedly grinding your teeth can put stress on your gums, which can cause inflammation and swelling. Over time, that inflammation can cause gums to recede. Bruxism, the technical term for teeth grinding, can happen to anyone, but it typically results from unmanaged anxiety. Most teeth grinders don’t realize that they do it because they usually grind while asleep. That’s why you may wake up with tooth sensitivity or tight jaw muscles. If you have tooth grinding symptoms, consider talking with your dentist about it. You may need to wear a mouthguard at night or practice relaxation techniques to manage stress.
You Smoke Or Use Tobacco
Smoking causes discoloration of your teeth, but it also affects your gums, especially if you dip (use chewing tobacco). Tobacco reduces immune function, making it more difficult for your gums to fight off infection. That can lead to gum inflammation and gum recession, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Obviously, the best way to protect your mouth from this is to stop smoking or using chewing tobacco. There are many methods that can help you stop smoking, but if you do use tobacco, please continue to brush and floss regularly. Don’t forget to get regular cleanings from the dentist as well.
Your Tongue Or Lip Piercing Is To Blame
This sounds strange, but an oral piercing can actually increase the risk of gum recession over time. The piercing can cause irritation or inflammation that causes the gums to recede. Oral piercings may also cause an injury that damages the teeth or gum tissue. Damaged gum tissue can lead to inflammation and recession. If you have an oral piercing, you have to be extra attentive with your oral care. In addition to brushing and flossing, follow oral piercing cleaning instructions to reduce the risk of infection or gum recession.
You Brush Too Hard
Brushing regularly is a must for optimal oral health, but being overzealous with your brushing can do more harm than good. Aggressive brushing can irritate gum tissue, which causes inflammation that can lead to gum recession over time. If you have sensitive gums, consider getting a soft- or medium-bristle toothbrush to be more gentle on your gums. Always brush your teeth twice per day, but remember to be gentle on your teeth. Use gentle, circular motions with and consider holding your toothbrush differently to reduce intensity. Try to hold the brush with only your thumb, index, and middle fingers. Not only does this give you less leverage, but it may also remind you to go easier on your gums.