Like so many subjects in medicine and dentistry, the internet is full of misinformation and misunderstandings around receding gums.
It can be super confusing. Some resources will say you can grow back gum tissue while others will say you can’t.
One site might tell you that receding gums are a result of brushing too hard and another might say gum recession is caused by gum disease.
So, this article serves as our best attempt to dispel the myths around receding gums. We’ll also offer some suggestions for how to best address gum recession and stop its progression in your own mouth.
Let’s start by exploring a bit of mouth anatomy to help create a foundation for this discussion on how to optimize your gum health.
Gum tissue anatomy 101
Our gums are really nothing more than a layer of skin that covers the bone tissue of the upper jaw (maxilla) and lower jaw (mandible).
As long as the underlying jaw bone is intact, gum tissue will stay strong and at healthy levels on the teeth.
In other words, the only reason gums recede is because the bone that supports the gum tissue has withdrawn.
Incidentally, there’s a direct connection between receding gums and sensitive teeth. Here’s an article that explores solutions to help you stop sensitive teeth for good (at home).
Circling back to our discussion on the connection between receding gums and jaw bone loss, you might be surprised to learn that bones can demineralize (and they have the capacity to remineralize, too). For various reasons, the jaw bone can and sometimes does demineralize.
So, to figure out what’s causing gum recession, we need to first take a look at the 5 main factors that cause jaw bone tissue to demineralize.
(Note: For now, we’re going to focus on the jaw bone and set aside the very common issue of general nutritional deficiency, which plays a huge role in the demineralization / remineralization process.
If you’d like more information on how nutrition plays a huge role in oral health, be sure to download our FREE e-book, “How to Stop Tooth Decay and Remineralize Your Teeth”. While the above resource guide is focused on addressing tooth decay, the same strategies also support optimal bone density to stop jaw demineralization.)
5 main causes of jaw demineralization
Here are the five main factors that contribute to diminishing jaw bone tissue:
- Periodontal disease (advanced gum disease)
- Bruxism (clenching and grinding the teeth)
- Nutritional deficiencies
The jaw bone tissue surrounds all sides of each of our teeth.
Unfortunately, the layer of bone tissue on the facial (outside) surface is very thin, and in some people, it can even be non-existent. This is according to our friend, Dr. Al Danenberg, a dentist who has specialized in the treatment of gum disease for the past 40+ years. Feel free to check out our expert interview with Dr. Danenberg here.
The density of jaw bone tissue on the facial (outer) side of our teeth plays a very key role in gum recession.
The path to getting ‘long in the tooth’…
As you can guess, this demineralization process of the jaw bones doesn’t occur overnight.
At first, the bone slowly loses minerals, but its overall structure remains intact.
According to Dr. Danenberg, if the cause of the demineralization has been effectively addressed, as long as the ‘scaffolding’ of the jaw bone remains in place, the bone can remineralize.
However, once the scaffolding-like structure of the bone also demineralizes, the gum tissue no longer has the support it needs to remain at optimal levels on the teeth.
This bone loss does not immediately cause the gum to recede, but at this point, the gum tissue is very vulnerable to recession.
Without the underlying support of the bone to keep it in place, any aggravation can provoke the gum tissue to recede.
When the underlying bone has diminished, brushing unconsciously can most definitely cause gum recession.
So, how do we stop gum recession?
To stop our gums from receding, we must first identify what’s causing the underlying bone to demineralize.
Again, in this article, we are going to temporarily set aside general nutritional deficiency, which is a very common contributing factor to this puzzle. If you’d like to read some simple steps that anyone can take to better support their oral (and whole body) health, download our FREE e-book, “How to Stop Tooth Decay and Remineralize Your Teeth”.
Gum disease is incredibly common in our modern times. So, unless we’re really, really sure that we don’t have it, it might be best to operate under the assumption that we have an active infection.
Research published in the Journal of Dental Research found that 47% of 30-year-olds and over 70% of 65-year-olds had periodontal disease.
Mind you, periodontal disease is gum disease that has advanced to the point where the jaw bone is being compromised.
You see, in the mouth, the ‘thug bugs’ implicated with gum disease not only directly destroy bone tissue, but they also cause our immune system to go on ‘full alert’.
In an attempt to stop the infection, our immune system creates inflammation in the localized region.
When this infection is chronic (ongoing), it leads to chronic inflammation in the area, which also contributes to a breakdown in jaw bone health.
We created a free resource, the OraWellness Mouth Map, to help you determine if gum disease is actively undermining your health.
Incidentally, while we can’t claim that our HealThy Mouth Blend cures gum disease, we have many testimonials from happy customers all over the world who are no longer experiencing the bleeding gums or the chronic bad breath associated with gum disease. They attribute their improved oral health to using our HealThy Mouth Blend and Bass toothbrushes as well as applying the strategies we teach here at OraWellness.com.
Bruxism (grinding and clenching)
Also, while the stresses of our modern lifestyle may play a part in why some people grind their teeth, researchers are now finding that nighttime grinding is very strongly associated with mild sleep apnea.
In fact, we interviewed Dr. Mark Burhenne, a dentist who specializes in patient sleep issues, to explore the relationship between bruxism, undiagnosed sleep apnea, and chronic fatigue.
If you grind your teeth, please check out that expert interview to learn more about this fascinating connection that’s just beginning to make its way into medicine and dentistry.
Whatever the cause of bruxism, it’s clear that habitually clenching and grinding our teeth most definitely leads to a breakdown in the strength and structure of the jaws.
It goes without saying that we want to avoid smacking our faces into anything hard, as the trauma of one accident can change the course of a person’s entire life.
We have lost count of the number of people who have reached out to us asking what can be done for their child/teen who had an accident that traumatized their front teeth.
Gums and teeth like to be massaged. They like to be stimulated. But they don’t like to be smashed around.
Overall, when we damage a bone, it commonly grows back stronger than before the trauma. However, in the case of our jaw bone, there’s so much risk of infection in or around the jaw that the common occurrence of ‘break it and it gets stronger’ doesn’t seem to apply here.
According to Dr. Danenberg, the original thickness of the facial jaw bones may be a matter of genetics.
Just like we are all born with variations in our skulls, the texture of our hair, etc., the density of your jaw bone may have a genetic component.
We liken this to asking, “what generation of Pottenger’s cats are you?“
Some people may even have been born with a complete lack of jaw bone tissue on the facial surface.
Like we stated above, if the facial jaw bone diminishes, the gum tissue that was being supported by that bone tissue becomes more at risk of receding.
At this point, we think a logical question to ask is…
“Can I regrow the gum tissue I’ve already lost to recession?”
And we have to be careful how we answer this question. Here’s why…
If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you know we prefer to stay very ‘solution-oriented’ with our focus.
While there’s plenty to cry foul about in the dental industry, rather than talking about all the dark, gloomy stuff in dentistry, we prefer to share solutions for how we can each navigate to greater oral health.
The last thing we want to do is take the wind out of the sails of someone who plans to regrow their gum tissue. The bottom line is, we are constantly learning new information, and we believe miracles happen all the time.
In fact, as many of you know, if Susan had listened to that dentist’s advice at the fateful dental appointment when she was diagnosed with periodontal disease, OraWellness may never have been born.
So, with that introduction in place…
To our knowledge, once gum tissue has receded, that means that the bone has diminished. And once the bone has diminished, the gum tissue can only recover in accordance with the current ‘height’ of bone tissue.
Yes, the bone tissue can remineralize; however, our understanding is the bone won’t regrow back up to its original height.
The good news is that bone tissue can remineralize to strengthen the remaining structure.
So, if you have loose teeth (which is a very common sign of advancing gum disease), taking care of the problem’s root cause will allow the jaw to remineralize so your teeth can tighten back up in your mouth.
If you have loose teeth, our HealThy Mouth System has helped thousands of people around the world to keep their teeth, effectively address periodontal disease (in the comfort of their own home), and navigate to greater oral health.
We hope this article has provided some useful information to help you along your path.
What about you–what have you learned about gum recession? What’s been your experience? Please share your thoughts in the comments below so we can all continue to learn from one another.
And please (PLEASE) email us if you succeed in regrowing receding gums and have proof with ‘before/after’ photos. We will most definitely share with the world how you did it.
Now that you understand the real causes of gum recession, it makes sense that we want to take steps to support optimal bone remineralization.
For more information on this, here’s a link to ‘part 2’ of this discussion, “How to Stop Receding Gums“.
May your bright, healthy smile bless your life and the lives of those around you each and every day.
Helpful, Related Resources:
What causes sensitive teeth and how to stop it [article]
How to stop tooth decay and remineralize your teeth [Free resource guide]
What is periodontal disease? [article]
How Nutrition Plays a Foundational Role in Stopping and Reversing Gum Disease [Free expert interview]
How to avoid 3 common tooth brushing mistakes that can damage your teeth and gums [article]
The First Step to Dental Self Empowerment [article and Free resource]
HealThy Mouth Blend [product solution]
What your Receding Gums May Be Telling You [Free expert interview]
4 Reasons Why Brushing Is So Important [article]
How to Stop Bleeding Gums in 3 Easy Steps [article]
4 Steps to Help Your Kids Live a Cavity Free Life [article]
How to Get Rid of Bad Breath (Halitosis) in 30 Seconds [article]
Susan’s Story [article]
How to Stop Receding Gums [article]
Bass Toothbrushes [product solution]
HealThy Mouth System [product solution]
5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth [[free video tutorial series]]
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22935673 – Pubmed