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Why are my gums shrinking and exposing more tooth structure?

Ever wonder why your gum is receding, exposing more and more tooth structure? You also may be noticing little grooves appearing in some of those exposed areas. There are two theories to explain these phenomenon with the truth probably lying somewhere in between.

The first and oldest theory is that it is due to brushing. Using a hard or medium brush instead of a soft one is likely to abrade the hard and soft tissue, literally wearing it away over time. In addition, brushing sideways (instead of in circles) is like "chopping down a tree", a very efficient way to wear away gum and tooth. Unfortunately, you cannot just stop brushing the gums because in that case the gums will recede because of plaque and tartar buildup. You must learn to brush correctly (go to http://drstevenlandin.com/education.html).

When I was in the military I had two seasoned veterans of World War II who literally caused nerve exposures with their toothbrushes since they were so aggressive and rarely changed brushes. Remember, when the bristles of a soft brush begin to keel over "like a wheat field in the wind" they are now acting as hard bristles because of the increased surface area contacting the tooth and gum.

The other theory is that the tooth chips away because the bite is off and/or the patient grinds or clenches. This is called an abfraction. If you can picture leaning on a sheet of plastic, it would begin to crack closer to the floor than where you actually applied the pressure. We can check if your bite is off and correct it, if necessary. In addition, if we suspect that you are grinding or clenching, an appliance can be constructed that will eliminate the ill effects of these habits.

As for those existing areas of wear, one solution is to fill them with tooth-colored composite so that you can't make them any deeper with your toothbrush. If you want to make the teeth look shorter, we can refer you to the periodontist (gum specialist) who can recover the tooth with a graft or by sliding the adjacent gum over the worn area.

Unless you are a patient of Dr. Landin's and have seen him very recently, this should not be construed as dental advice but only as information. Please consult your own dentist in regard to your personal situation or condition.

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