Causes of Gum Recession
Gum Grafting Surgery? Whaaa?
This year, I discovered (seemingly out of nowhere) that I had some gum recession issues. After being referred to a periodontist, I was informed that I would need four (and eventually a total of even) gum grafting surgeries.
This is no small thing, as each surgery costs over $1500.
Obviously I wish I had been informed of ways I could have stopped this recession before it became an issue. Though it was a bit late for me, it might not be too late for you. From what I've been told by two periodontists, I'll share with you the major causes of gum recession.
Thin vs. Thick Gums
Gum recession is far more common amongst those who have thinner gums. Some people are just born with thick gums, others have thinner ones.
One of my periodontists gave Jimmy Cater as an example of someone known for having very thick gums. This periodontist described thick gums as being more like the skin of an orange you can poke it and it'll bounce right back—it is very resistant to trauma.
This same periodontist presented Julia Roberts as an example of someone who has particularly thin gums. These gums are less resilient to scraps and trauma (such as hard brushing). Whereas thick gums are more like orange peels, thin gums are more like plastic wrap.
People who were born with thin gums are simply more likely to have issues with recession as time goes on. For this reason, it's worth it to ask your dentist or orthodontist what they think of your gums, and if they have any recommendations on different toothpaste, brushes, or brushing mechanisms you should adopt to reduce your odds of having trouble.
If you have thin gums, you need to be extra careful about using soft-bristled brushes and even opting for toothpaste that will be more gentle with your gums.
I made the mistake (not knowing that my gums were at risk of receding) of brushing with a very hard-bristled brush (with those rubber bristles at each side). As soon as my dentist discovered this, he recommended I get a sonic toothbrush. Given my "thin biotype" and recession issues, my periodontist recommended I get the latest Oral B model, which glows read when you press to hard and is REALLY fun to use.
In addition to brushing more carefully, people who have thin gums or generally want to avoid recession should avoid typical whitening toothpastes, which are more abrasive. My periodontist recommended I get a gentle toothpaste for "sensitive teeth." Though many of them taste nasty, the Crest ones are pretty good.
I've listed the specific products that were referred to me below. Hopefully the referrals I've received can save you some time!
This is the toothbrush recommended by my periodontist. LOVE IT! Its cool bluetooth companion smiles back when you finish—and frowns when you press too hard!
One of the most common causes of gum recession is movement caused by braces. There are basically two options orthodontists have when straightening teeth with braces:
- Remove two teeth and move things back
- Push all the teeth forward to line them up
When the teeth are pushed forward, they're sort of left hanging off the ledge of your jawbone. While the gums are not always pulled down by this movement, they sometimes can be.
The movement prompted by braces is not the only cause of gum recession. Brushing one does when one has braces (which might be too rough around the gums because the wires get in the way) might push back the gums, and difficulty flossing with braces might cause gum disease that also leads to the gums getting pulled back.
I hadn't known that my getting braces could lead to these problems. Even if I had known, I would still have opted for them, however some orthodontists reinforce the gums of those with thin gums BEFORE they are given braces to reduce the likelihood of problems happening after the movement takes place. I would have liked to be given that option.
This toothpaste was also recommended by my periodontist, and does NOT taste nasty.
Braces are not the only potential cause of poor oral hygiene that might cause gum disease. Lots of people just aren't that good at caring for their teeth!
In many instances, gum disease can lead the gums to pull back, which contributes to recession. If the threat of cavities were not enough to get you to regularly brush and floss, perhaps the threat of gum recession will!
The best way to promote gum health while brushing is to gently brush teeth from all angles (e.g. diagonally toward the spot where the tooth and gum meet). This gets bristles under the pocket of gums around each tooth and keeps the area clean.
What if I Still Get Gum Recessions?
If you end up having gum recession issues despite your efforts, worry not. There are medical procedures to help you counteract the recession (and in some cases, cover it up). For more information on this next step, swing my by articles on getting gum grafting surgery and recovering from the procedure.