Are Your Gums Getting in the Way of Your Healthy Smile?


I have patients who experience gum recession. It’s not uncommon – about 50% of adults deal with some amount of receding gums and the possibility of sensitivity and decay. Unfortunately, even beautiful restorations and crowns are affected, and many people are left with an older–looking and unattractive smile. 

There is much misunderstanding about what causes gum tissue to shrink away from teeth. Recession is commonly associated with aging. However, it’s not as simple as that. In many cases, gingival recession, as it’s formally known, can be prevented by avoiding dangerous habits.

What Causes Gum Recession?

1. Brushing With a Hard Toothbrush.  Brushing teeth twice a day is good. Brushing too forcefully with a hard bristle toothbrush is not. The soft plaque that forms on your teeth can be removed by brushing gently with a soft toothbrush. Hardened plaque can only be removed by a dental professional. Hard bristles may cause the gum tissue to pull back from teeth, which can expose the tooth root and lead to increased sensitivity to heat and cold or certain foods and drinks.

2. Smoking. The risk of smoking to oral health is well known. Smoking has been linked to bad breath, oral cancer, bone loss, and throat cancer. It also contributes to gum recession in all age groups!

3. Oral Piercings. Oral piercings may be a popular form of self-expression, but they can cause damage to teeth and gums. Both tongue and lip piercings have been shown to cause tooth abrasion and gum recessions. One concern is that the piercings are usually performed by nonmedical professionals. To minimize the risk, check with your dental or medical professional before getting a piercing.

4. Age. Older dental patients frequently say that no matter how well they have cared for their teeth, recession occurs. Gingival recession is more commonly found in older people. However, that doesn’t mean aging in itself is the cause. It’s a long process that can start early in life, possibly triggered by some of the habits described; the damage accumulates and becomes more evident over time.

Can Gum Recession Be Prevented?

The best way to prevent most gum recession is to avoid certain habits like hard tooth brushing, smoking, and oral piercings. Minor gum recession may require periodic monitoring by your dentist whereas severe gum recession will need some treatment to fix the problem.

Why Does Gum Recession Need to Be Treated?

The gums function like a seal for the bone and teeth, protecting the sensitive roots. If the gums recede and the roots are exposed, people experience sensitivity to cold and other stimulants like sweet. Also, when roots are exposed teeth become more susceptible to decay. If you have concerns about your gums, consult with your dental professional.

Remember, healthy teeth make a healthy smile!

Dr. Nishan Halim

Invisalign is now available. Our team is proud to offer it to those patients for whom it may be the perfect solution to a fabulous smile! Don’t wait. Check out our seasonal Invisalign Special. 

Nishan Halim, DMD specializes in adult and pediatric restorative and cosmetic dentistry, as well as preventive dentistry, which is at the heart of this Capitol Hill, Washington DC neighborhood dental center.  If you have questions about gum disease, contact Dr. Halim to schedule an appointment. Find out how he can help you maintain your healthy smile.


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