“Long in the tooth” is an old saying to describe someone who’s gotten along in years. It refers to the practice of determining a horse’s age by measuring the visible length of the teeth as the gums shrink back over time.
But gum recession is neither normal nor healthy for humans.
Once your gums recede, they don’t grow back, but treatments for every stage of gum recession exist, and we offer them here at St. Tammany Periodontics & Implants in Covington and Slidell, Louisiana.
Dr. Caesar Sweidan and Dr. Laura Smith, our board-certified periodontists, explain what can go wrong when your gums recede and why you should seek treatment immediately.
If you're looking “long in the tooth,” it’s easy to assume it’s related to aging, since about 88% of folks over 65 have receding gums. But aging doesn’t directly cause the problem; it just means you’ve had more time to experience the things that lead to gum recession.
Your gums are meant to stay in place for life, but genetics can play a role in their recession.
If your frenum — the stretchy band of tissue that attaches your upper lip to your gums — is positioned too high, it constantly pulls on your gums and contributes to gum recession.
But most causes of gum recession result from environmental causes, such as mouth trauma, aggressive tooth brushing, lip or tongue piercing, periodontal disease, chewing tobacco, or orthodontic therapy.
Left untreated, gum recession progresses and causes an avalanche of problems, both medical and cosmetic.
In its early stage, we can treat symptoms of mild gum recession with topical antibiotics and dental bonding, but surgical intervention is the only solution in many cases. Gum recession treatment can help you avoid five problems.
Receding gums change your smile. Looking “long in the tooth” makes you look old — whether you’re a horse or a human. We can halt the recession and prevent your teeth from revealing your age.
When your gums recede, they expose the roots, causing extreme sensitivity and even pain. Cold air or liquids, sweets, and hot drinks can trigger twinges of pain and discomfort.
Desensitizing toothpaste with ingredients like potassium nitrate, arginine, stannous fluoride, or strontium chloride can ease discomfort by calming the nerves, but it may take a few weeks of regular use to feel relief.
As gums pull away, your teeth lose their secure support system. Instead of being held in place by a tight tissue wrap, they sit loosely in a spongy pocket of flesh, becoming wiggly.
This compromises your chewing ability and the integrity of your bite and allows bacteria to enter your tooth root, leading to tooth loss and jawbone degradation.
Your teeth are protected by a hard enamel coating that wards off bacteria and allows you to chew with confidence.
But below your gums, the tooth roots have only a thin layer of cementum to protect them, so when your receding gums expose the roots, they become highly vulnerable to root cavities, which progress much more rapidly than cavities in the enamel.
You may need gum grafting surgery when the gum recession exceeds the point where desensitizing toothpaste and other conservative measures are effective. If this becomes necessary, we perform the procedure here in our office.
We take a small section of tissue from the roof of your mouth and graft it into the place where your gums have receded. As it heals — about two weeks for most — the new tissue melds with the existing gums, and your smile and oral health return to normal.
If you’re looking a bit long in the tooth, call us or request an appointment online. The sooner you get treatment, the better your chances of avoiding these five dental problems.