Do you have that "Long in the tooth look?"

Posted by Dr. Edward Magida | Filed under , , ,

Have you ever seen someone smile and it seems that their teeth are really long? You know what I mean. The teeth look like the teeth of a snarling dog, at least 50% longer than what they should be. Well, before you sign them up with Barnum and Bailey, you should realize that the teeth really haven't grown longer. Rather the gums have shortened. This can happen for many reasons. Because the gums no longer cover the roots of the persons' teeth, like they did years ago, the teeth appear longer. Many people have this condition called "gum recession". When it occurs in the front of the mouth, it can really make a persons smile seem older. When it occurs on the back teeth, it does not have that aging effect, but there are still problems that can develop. When the gums recede and the roots of the teeth are now exposed, the teeth can become more prone to tooth decay, due to the root surface not having any enamel on it. The exposed roots can also become more sensitive to hot and/or cold temperatures more easily.

How do your gums recede?. Healthy gum tissue attaches to the teeth near the bottom of the enamel part of the tooth. The gum tissue completely covers the necks of the teeth. There are certain instances when the gums pull away from the necks of the teeth. This condition is called recession, and it can happen in the following ways:

The most common way is for the gums to actually be worn away, because the person brushes their teeth incorrectly and/or too hard. You should only use a soft toothbrush to clean your teeth. Leave your medium and hard toothbrushes out of your bathroom. Perhaps your tool box is the correct place for them, to help clean your tools. Never use a front to back sawing motion to brush as it could harm the delicate gum tissues.

Gum, or periodontal disease, can also be a cause of gum recession. This disease causes the bone to shrink around the teeth. The gums can also shrink and pull away from the teeth.

Smokers tend to have more gum disease since the smoke causes the gums to not maintain their strength and attachment to the teeth.

Oral jewelry, such as a tongue bar, can rub away the gums from the necks of the teeth.

If you find yourself in the same boat as millions of others, that is with recession, what should be done? Well, many times nothing needs to be done. If the recession is not too bad, you just want to not cause any more recession.. Many times all this means is a change in the way you brush your teeth. Obviously cutting down or eliminating smoking will also help. While you're at it, keep the hardware, meaning your tongue piercings, on the shelf. Metal does not belong in a persons' mouth, period. If you have receding gums and do not have sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet things, that's great. As long as the recession stays in check you do not have to do anything.

However, if temperature and /or sweet things cause pain to your teeth, or if your dentist tells you that you are now starting to get cavities around the necks of the teeth (which used to be covered by the gums), then you might want to do some things.

Using a prescription strength fluoride toothpaste or mouthrinse is one way to combat the pain that develops in the teeth. The fluoride helps to stop the pain caused by temperature. It will also help prevent the occurrence of root cavities, which can happen because the now uncovered roots do not have any enamel protection like the rest of the tooth.

You can also use one of the "desensitizing type" toothpastes that have been formulated to stop the pain and sensitivity from developing.

Lastly, if your recession is rather severe and your teeth look funny because a lot of gum is missing, your dentist might suggest getting a "gum graft". This is a procedure where gum tissue from another part of your mouth is put in the areas where it is missing. Since it is your own tissue it should attach itself in the new area and replace the gum tissue you lost. After a few weeks the gum tissue in the new area blends in with the old gum and your smile looks younger because you are not " so long in the tooth" anymore.

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