When the gum tissue that surrounds your teeth starts to pull away, a greater area of teeth is exposed. This not only alters your smile, hence the term "looking long in the tooth," but it also sets the scene for tiny pockets to open up between your teeth and your gum line, potentially letting bacteria can seep in.
Receding gums aren't just an issue for aging seniors, although the process of gum recession is a gradual one that often goes unnoticed for years. Tooth sensitivity is one of the first signs of receding gums. You may also notice that one or more of your teeth look longer than it used to. Or your dentist might mention the fact that your gums are receding and offer some advice on ways to prevent further damage from occurring.
Some factors that can lead to receding gums include different types of gum disease, genetic predispositions, brushing your teeth too hard, grinding your teeth, smoking, plaque buildup and other issues. There are some measures you can take to help reduce your risk of developing receding gums or to help keep gum recession from advancing further.
- Stop using tobacco.
If you quit smoking or chewing tobacco products, you can reduce the amount of bacteria that enters your mouth, helping prevent cavities, decay and gum recession.
- Take care of your teeth.
By paying daily attention to your general oral health, you'll be better equipped to prevent gum recession or help it from getting worse. See your dentist for cleanings and check-ups twice a year, brush at least twice a day, floss daily and use a mouthwash that has antibacterial ingredients. Those six-month cleanings with a dental hygienist are important for removing excess plaque and tartar that can cause gum disease.
- Eat a healthy diet.
You can help lessen the amount of bacteria in your mouth by reducing plaque formation on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky bacterium that becomes hard and attaches to your teeth. It's often formed when eating sugary foods and will irritate your gums. Eating crisp fresh fruits and vegetables helps lessen the formation of plaque, as well as regular flossing and brushing. Healthy, nutritious foods also discourage the formation of plaque in your mouth.
- Take care of any existing oral conditions.
If your teeth are crooked and misaligned, your bite is off, or you grind your teeth at night, these conditions can heighten your risk for gum disease and recession. By treating these issues before they become even bigger problems, you may be able to prevent your gums from receding further or, hopefully, at all. For instance, if you grind your teeth, it's best to be fitted for a night mouth guard to protect your gums.
- Use the right type of toothbrush.
Since brushing your teeth too hard can harm your gums and hasten gum recession, it's best to use a toothbrush that has soft or, at most, medium bristles. Receding gums can be the result of the wearing away of tooth enamel, the tooth's outermost surface. Brushing too aggressively with a toothbrush that has hard bristles can damage your enamel and cause your gums to recede.
Your dental practitioner can diagnose any potential oral issues that point to receding gums. You'll want to do as much as you can to prevent gum recession from occurring in the first place. Begin with these 5 tips for preventing receding gums and you'll not only keep gum disease at bay, but you'll live a healthier lifestyle.