A natural consequence of aging, the older we get the more problems we tend to have maintaining the health of our bodies. For seniors, one of the biggest areas of concern is their oral health. Even though enamel, the hard coating that surrounds your teeth, ranks as the hardest substance in the body, a lifetime of wear can cause even something as resilient as your teeth to eventually breakdown.
Approximately 25 percent of all seniors over the age of 65 have lost all of their teeth, according to statistics compiled by the American Dental Association. While a variety of conditions can lead to tooth loss, the leading cause in seniors is gum recession. For seniors to maintain their teeth and improve their oral health, they need to deal with gum recession during the early stages.
What is Gum Recession?
Gum recession describes the process by which the amount of gum tissue that surrounds your teeth begins to deteriorate. This causes the gum line to slowly pull back, which exposes more of the tooth and its roots. The more of a tooth that becomes exposed, the higher your risk of developing gaps, or “pockets,” between the gum line and your teeth. These pockets allow bacteria to accumulate along the gum line, which can lead to gum disease and tooth decay. When left untreated, gum recession allows bone structures and supporting tissue of your teeth to become severely damaged, and may result in tooth loss.
Even though gum recession is common in most people, the majority of which don’t realize they have the condition because the gums recede so gradually. Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold is generally one of the first signs of gum recession. You may also begin to notice that a tooth looks abnormal, and usually you can feel the gap between your teeth and gums.
While damaging to the health of your teeth, gum recession can be treated by your dentist. The earlier your dentist catches the condition, the more successful treatment to correct the condition will become. Gum recession isn’t a problem you want to ignore, and you should schedule an appointment with a dentist if believe you have the condition.
What Causes Gum Recession?
There are a number of oral health conditions that can lead to gum recession. These can include:
Periodontal disease. A bacterial infection, periodontal disease destroys gum tissue and the supporting bone structure that holds your teeth into position. Periodontal disease is the primary cause of gum recession.
Genetics. Occasionally a person’s genetics makes them more susceptible to gum recession. According to studies, approximately 30 percent of people may have a predisposition to developing some type of gum disease.
Brushing too hard. Individuals who brush their teeth too aggressively risk damaging the gum line. Brushing too vigorously can cause your gum line to become inflamed. If this happens too often, your gums will eventually begin to recede.
Poor dental care. Individuals who fail to brush and floss regularly allow plaque, a sticky bacteria that builds up in the mouth, to slowly erode away at their teeth’s enamel. Given enough time, small pockets develop in the teeth where bacteria begins to accumulate. This eventually can lead to tooth decay and gum disease, such as periodontal disease.
Tobacco use. Tobacco users have an increased risk of developing excess plaque on their teeth, which as just mentioned, can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
Bruxism. More commonly referred to as teeth grinding, individuals who have a habit of grinding their teeth place excessive pressure on their gums, which eventually leads to recession.
Crooked teeth. Crooked or ill-fitting teeth also place excessive pressure on the gum line, which can eventually lead to gum recession.
Preventing Gum Recession
Since gum disease ranks as the leading cause of gum recession, the most successful way to prevent the condition is to take good care of your teeth and gums. This means brushing and flossing daily, and scheduling regular appointments to have your teeth cleaned and examined.
While it might seem too late for seniors to improve their dental habits, it’s never too late to prevent plaque from doing further damage to the health of your teeth. Your dentist may be able to help reverse the affects of gum recession, but unless you improve your oral health, the condition will continue to cause concern.
Timothy Lemke blogs about how to seniors can keep their teeth healthy and strong for Dr. Robert McDowell, a dentist in Clackamas OR at McDowell Family & Cosmetic Dentistry.