I am 45 and have had no apparent dental problems so I’ve never felt the need to visit a dentist, but in the past few years I’ve noticed my gum line is receding. What is causing this, and can I do anything to prevent it?

I am glad you’ve asked this question because you have brought up the most common mistake that people make with regard to their oral health. The biggest misconception is that everything in your mouth is OK as long as you don’t feel any pain or discomfort. Unfortunately, symptoms often appear only when the disease is so severe that it becomes irreversible.

Gum recession occurs when the margin of your gums surrounding your teeth moves away, exposing your roots, which makes your teeth seem longer.

There are numerous causes. It could be periodontal disease, which can cause the detachment of the gum and lead to deep pockets where bacteria can grow and destroy the underlying bone, causing gums to recede. Aggressive brushing, or using the wrong technique or a toothbrush with stiff bristles can also cause gum recession.

Another factor is that if your teeth are crowded, it is difficult to maintain good oral hygiene, leading to gum disease and recession. Thin gums are also more prone to recession.

Smoking also causes recession by reducing the vital blood flow to the gums, making them more susceptible to secondary infections.

Habits such as grinding or clenching can result in excessive force on the teeth, causing the enamel to chip off and the gums to recede.

You need to visit a dentist to ascertain the cause of your gum recession. Depending on that and the severity, the dentist will recommend a suitable treatment or refer you to a periodontist for a reconstructive procedure.

The periodontist might do a gum graft where he takes gum tissue from a healthy donor site in your mouth and grafts it over the exposed roots. This would help to prevent further gum loss and also improve the aesthetics of the teeth so they will not appear longer than normal.