Like our current economic recession, gum recession doesn’t happen overnight. Receding gums gradually happen from day to day over the years. Gum recession usually strikes adults over the age of 40 however it can begin in the teen years.
Gum recession symptoms may include “long in the tooth” where the tooth appears longer than normal or the spaces between teeth seem to grow. Other gum recession symptoms include hypersensitive teeth, the roots of the tooth are exposed and visible, the tooth feels notched at the gum line, change in the tooth’s color, and cavities below the gum line.
Gum recession has many causes. Some causes are over-aggressive brushing, inadequate brushing or flossing, eating disorders, dipping tobacco, grinding of the teeth (bruxism), orthodontic movement of teeth, piercings in the lip or tongue and sensitivity to sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS - an ingredient in most commercial toothpastes).
It is critical to identify the cause and severity in arriving at treatments. For optimal results, treatments need to focus on the patients’ lifestyle, habits and current oral health condition.
Treatment should start with addressing the problem which caused the gum recession. If overactive brushing is the cause, the patient should purchase a softer toothbrush and use a more gentle brushing technique. If poor plaque control is a contributing factor, improved oral hygiene must be performed, combined with regular professional dental cleanings. If severe tartar is the cause, then a procedure called scaling and root planning may be necessary to clean the teeth and heal the inflammation in the gingiva (gums). If an incorrect bite is a factor, a bite adjustment or bite splint may be recommended.
An over-the-counter option for tooth root surface sensitivity is one with 5% potassium nitrate. When applied twice a day for 14 days, it may provide relief to hypersensitivity.
If this option isn’t helping the pain, a dental professional may offer toothpastes with ingredients Novamin, Argin complex, and ReCaldent. These products may require a custom tray to place the paste and leave in the mouth for 3 minutes.