Receding gums, or gingival recession, is a retraction of the gums from the crown of the teeth. It is a progressive condition that may start as early as in childhood or adolescence and worsens ever so gradually over the years. By the time it becomes apparent, usually past the age of 40, the roots of the teeth may have become exposed.
The roots of teeth sit in their individual sockets in the jaw bone. But the gum tissue tightly covering the jaw bones and the base of their crowns plays a role in fixing the teeth in position and keeping them stable. The gums should ideally hug each tooth at a point a little above its neck––where the crown of the tooth meets the root. This protects the lower portion of the tooth from exposure to food materials and pathogens.
Separation of the gum margins from the tooth is the first stage of recession.
Let’s see how that happens.
Bacteria in the mouth invariably form plaque, a sticky film on the teeth. You can remove bacteria by brushing and flossing, but unless removed periodically, preferably once every 12 hours, it can harden into tartar, a hard, yellowish-white calcareous deposit. Plaque and tartar buildup at the margins of gums cause their separation from the teeth. This, in turn, facilitates, even more, tartar deposits in the space between the teeth and the gums.
Gum recession is usually associated with poor dental hygiene since gum disease is the most common cause of this condition. But even if you brush your teeth religiously every morning and night and thoroughly floss in between them, you could still have receding gums. In fact, overaggressive hygiene measures like vigorous brushing and flossing can be equally responsible for gum inflammation, which exacerbates the gingival recession.
Some of the other risk factors for receding gums include smoking and tobacco use, bleeding from the gums as in scurvy due to Vitamin C deficiency, acid damage to the teeth enamel from acid reflux or self-induced vomiting, and orthodontic treatment involving repositioning of teeth.
Gum recession is often ignored because it doesn’t cause any problems early on. More often than not, it gets attention only when it starts to affect the aesthetics or cause other problems like sensitivity to hot or cold or acidic foods, abscesses in the gum, and tooth mobility. If left unattended, it can even lead to premature loss of teeth.
If you have any of the following symptoms of gum recession, it pays to take remedial measures as early as possible:
Longer teeth – This is hard to notice since the changes are gradual, but you could compare the present length with old photos.
Color change at the gum line – You might notice that your tooth crown and exposed root may be in different shades.
Inflamed gums – Your gums are red and swollen, especially along the margins.
Bleeding from the gums – Your gums may bleed when brushing teeth or biting into apples or other hard foods.
Food sensitivity – You may have a sharp pain when consuming hot, cold, sweet or acidic food and drinks.
Shaking teeth – You may feel your teeth moving slightly.
In early stages of gum recession, scaling, removal of plaque and tartar, combined with thorough, yet gentle, dental hygiene measures help control the condition. However, advanced cases often require surgical procedures such as gingival grafting. But here are some effective home remedies you can try irrespective of how severe the condition may be.
Yarrow is commonly called nosebleed or soldier’s woundwort because the juice of its leaves and stem can stop bleeding. Many North American tribes chew the leaves as a remedy for a toothache as well as a number of other ailments. The anticoagulant, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic, effects of yarrow can help with receding gums at any stage.
The simplest way to use yarrow is to chew on the leaves and stems if you have access to fresh supply. Pound the leaves or grind them into a paste and use it for gum massage. You can also make a yarrow tea for gargling. Pour boiling water over a handful of fresh or dried yarrow flowers and leaves or 1-2 Tbsp dry herb and let it steep for 15-20 minutes. Strain and use when the tea has cooled down. This antiseptic tea can improve oral hygiene in general and remedy a number of problems, including gum disease and throat infections.
If you don’t want to mess with the herb, you can use the essential oil of yarrow. This blue-colored oil is very potent, so mix in a few drops of coconut oil or another carrier oil before using it as a gum paint.
Whether you know sumac as a bush or tree growing in your backyard or as a tangy, red spice used for flavoring dishes or making pink lemonade, it can help you with receding gums. The plant parts have tannins that leave a puckering taste and a dry, sandpapery feel in the mouth characteristic of astringency. They draw out fluids from tissues, reducing inflammation and restoring gum tightness.
Remove the outer skin from sumac twigs and use them for massaging the gums or crush their tips and use them to brush the teeth and gums. You can boil the leaves to make a tea for gargling, or the red berries can be made into refreshing Indian lemonade. In addition, sumac berries are rich in Vitamin. You can also use the dried and coarsely powdered berries as a spice.
In case you are collecting leaves or berries from the wild, poison sumac has white berries, so you can easily tell it apart from the red-berried sumac Rhus spp.
3. Green tea
Regular use of green tea is found to improve dental health. It’s not surprising since the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of green are well known. According to a Japanese study, green tea habit not only reduces the chance of developing periodontal disease but brings down gum inflammation and improves the attachment of gums to the teeth. Sip green tea once or twice a day, allowing the tannins in the beverage to do the work.
Sage tea is another herbal remedy you can try for receding gums. This herb has a long history of being used for dental problems, thanks to its excellent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. People used to chew its leaves as a remedy for swollen gums and dental abscesses. A tea made from sage leaves can be used as a gargle for a sore throat and mouth ulcers. It can improve overall dental hygiene, besides protecting your gums.
Making a sage tea from fresh or dried sage is easy. Just steep a handful of fresh leaves or 2 Tbsp dried herb in hot water for 15-20 minutes and strain out the liquid. You can even use the leftover slush for massaging the gums.
5. Aloe vera
The soothing gel obtained from the succulent leaves of Aloe vera can reduce gum inflammation and recession. Use fresh herb for this purpose. Break off a piece of the leaf and rub it on your gums. Repeat this as often as you like. The gel can be scooped out and stored in the refrigerator. After brushing your teeth, dab the gel on your gums and massage to restore the tight texture of the gum tissue.
6. Sesame seed oil
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic technique of detoxification. Put 1-2 Tbsp of sesame seed oil in your mouth and swish it around for 10-15 minutes before spitting it out. Although oil pulling is used to treat several health problems, improvement in dental health is one of the earliest outcomes. However, it does take a bit of getting used to. Be sure not to oil pull on an empty stomach.
7. Coconut oil
The lauric acid and medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Massaging the gums with a pinch of fine sea salt mixed with a bit of virgin coconut oil can reduce inflammation.
Although oil pulling is traditionally performed with sesame seed oil, you can try coconut oil as well. It is lighter and has a more pleasant taste. Melt 1-2 Tbsp oil in a ladle and use.
8. Lemon oil
The essential oil of lemon obtained from the lemon peel is antiseptic and antimicrobial. Add ten drops of lemon oil to a cup of warm water and gargle, or mix 2-3 drops in a teaspoonful of coconut oil and rub on your gums to reduce inflammation and recession. This bitter oil has a fresh citrusy smell that can dispel bad breath.
9. Clove oil
Clove oil is widely used for toothache relief because it numbs the soft tissues, but it’s only a temporary effect. The oil is often used in dental hygiene products for its strong, long-lasting, antibacterial effect. It also tops the list for its antioxidant capacity. Use 5-6 drops in a cup of warm water as a mouthwash.
10. Lemongrass oil
Lemongrass has anti-fungal and antiseptic properties that prevent the growth of certain kinds of yeast and bacteria commonly found in the mouth. It has an anti-inflammatory, astringent action on the gums too. Boil 2-3 stems in water to make a pleasantly lemony mouth gargle or use ten drops of the essential oil in a cup of warm water. Regular use relieves inflammation and restores the normal, healthy texture of gums.
11. Vitamin C
A deficiency in Vitamin C can cause gum inflammation and bleeding. Supplementation usually shows dramatic improvement. Vitamins are ideally obtained from food because they are better utilized by the body in their natural forms rather than their synthetic versions.
Fresh vegetables and fruits are rich in Vitamin C, especially dark leafy greens, bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes kiwifruit, berries and citrus fruits. However, a significant percentage of the vitamin C is lost during storage, juicing and cooking. To avoid this, source fresh fruit and vegetables locally whenever possible, and consume them raw. Drink green smoothies and fruit juices immediately after preparation.
If you are not getting enough of Vitamin C from foods, consider taking a good supplement.