The whys of gum recession
by Dr. Nicholas Meyer —
Are you getting “long in the tooth?” If so, this can be a very serious, multi-causal issue of bone loss around the teeth. Gum recession can be as minor in size as the edge of a fingernail to a whopping full-root exposure that makes you wonder how the tooth is hanging on.
Several reasons are acknowledged for this condition, as well as some that are not. One of the most widely held beliefs is that brushing too hard has caused the gum to wear away. I always marvel at that one because I feel that you would have to be really dedicated to brush one tooth that much more than the other adjacent teeth in order to have this occur.
Another reason is that there is not enough bone to hold the gum tissue, eradicating the tooth’s support and thereby exposing it. Other reasons include not enough calcium in the diet and genetics, as in “my parents had the same thing happen.”
Frankly, no one really knows why gums recede, and we dentists have our own theories, particularly on a case-by-case basis. As a functionally oriented practitioner, I believe that much of the problem comes from tissue overload. By this I mean that there is too much force at one time placed on the tooth repeatedly. This force causes what are known as stress risers to occur, which, in turn, create a piezoelectric discharge or spark. This spark causes a disruption of the crystal structure of the tooth.
When enough of these disruptions occur, you see loss of the structure. The outer-most structure, that which holds the gum tissue on the bone and tooth, is affected first, and it disintegrates. The overlying bone is left with nothing to securely hold it to the tooth any longer. When that little piece of bone is gone, the gum has nothing to hold it any longer, and it recedes.
In my experience, I have witnessed both slow progression of this phenomenon, as well as rapid loss of gum tissue in as little as a six-month timeline. We dentists attempt to put the gum back with grafting, but this is a questionable treatment at times and depends on the severity of the condition, as well as the physiology of the tissue and the skill level of the doctor.
Gum recession is a one-way process that can stabilize or worsen. Be sure to have it checked out to prevent further eradication.
Nicholas Meyer, D.D.S., D.N.M., is a general dentist in Scottsdale, Ariz., who has a special interest in developmental disturbances of the facial complex that contribute to such maladies as TMJ, snoring and sleep apnea. milldental.com, DrMeyer@milldental.com or 480-948-0560.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 33, Number 5, October/November 2014.