Aging affects all aspects of physical health, but did you know that aging has a specific affect on the gumline and your probability of losing natural teeth? Most older adults have at least one false tooth, and many rely on partial dentures and full dentures to go about their everyday activities of chewing, eating, and maintaining proper nutrition. Part of aging includes changes to the mouth and shifts to the arrangement of teeth, and this isn’t something to be ignored. With proper management, you can maintain your smile for years to come!
If you’ve noticed receding gums, you’ve seen oral aging at work. You might notice that your teeth look longer and the gumline now exposes more of each tooth. Perhaps that’s where the phrase “long in the tooth” was born. As we age, our gumline recedes. Not unlike the hairline! Often, this process begins long before you notice it because the effects are slow and cumulative. You may not even notice the changes in your gumline until you catch a glimpse of your smile in a a photograph.
So what causes this change in the gumline? It could be:
Hormones: Fluctuations in female hormone levels that come with puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, can all impact the gums. As women enter menopause, hormones continue shifting until menopause is complete. It’s a process, and at any point in this process, the gums and tooth positioning can change. It’s important to continue monitoring oral health through these hormonal changes.
Periodontal diseases: bacterial gum infections can destroy gum tissue and supporting bone that hold your teeth in place. If your dentist has recommended any additional procedures (root scaling or root planing), you ought to follow through with them. Periodontal diseases can be stopped in its tracks with proper treatment, and you could end up saving your smile.
Genetics: Gum disease and resulting gum recession are strongly genetic, no matter how well you care for your teeth. Gum recession is passed down through families. Since it’s tied to the ability to maintain natural teeth in place, your grandparents’ teeth may be a predictor of your own. However, you have prosthodontic treatments as your disposal that your gradparents didn’t!
- Tooth brushing too aggressively: Gentle brushing twice daily with a soft-bristled brush is all it takes (combined with daily flossing) to remove daily plaque in between professional cleanings. If you don’t think you’re brushing too aggressively, try to soften it up anyway. Most people who brush too hard don’t think they’re brushing too hard!
- Crooked teeth: if teeth do not come together evenly, too much force can be placed on the gums and bone. Those gaps and cross-spaces are often damaged during brushing or flossing, and all of that trauma can lead to gum recession. Consider orthodontics to prevent the need for prosthodontics.
- Tobacco: smoking and chewing tobacco contribute to gum disease and gum recession. There’s no single worse activity than smoking for your oral health. It dries your mouth depriving it of saliva that cleans teeth and restores pH balance, it contributes to harmful bacteria while killing helpful bacteria, and it yellows and stains your teeth while placing you at risk for oral cancers. A smoking cessation program is imperative for good oral health.
Gum recession is, unfortunately, a normal and natural aging process for the gumline. As you have read, there are many contributing factors, some of which are outside our control or influence. Receding gums can’t be restored, but slowing down gum recession can help.
When aging and gum recession result in loss of natural teeth, Dr. Tindal and the team at Tindal Prosthodontics can provide restorative therapies including dental implants that will preserve your smile and your health. Dental implants preserve neighboring natural teeth by preventing further shifting, and implants keep the underlying gums and jaw line in place as aging progresses.
If you have questions about your teeth and the aging process and how prosthodontics might help, contact the team at Tindal Prosthodontics today!