Why is the gum pulling away from one of my teeth?
February 26, 2010 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Why is the gum pulling away from one of my teeth?

I just noticed that the inside of one of my bottom teeth has the gum pulling away from it. I can feel the "dip" of the tooth (the part that is normally not exposed) with my tongue. I looked in the mirror, and there is a little gap.

Why is this happening? I have no history of tooth problems. I have only ever had one cavity and I brush my teeth. There is no pain, nor inflammation, pus, blood, etc.

This is really worrying me. I've been under a lot of stress the past couple weeks, and this is not helping.
posted by DeltaForce to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would go to the dentist, because this sounds like gum recession. If you and the dentist can figure out what's causing it, it will save you a nasty surgery to graft new gums onto the part that's receding.
posted by kataclysm at 7:24 AM on February 26, 2010

Response by poster: Probably should have mentioned this...I'm 5'4 and have recently dropped down to 100 pounds because of stress. I didn't even consider that.

Occam's razor?
posted by DeltaForce at 7:26 AM on February 26, 2010

At the dentist's office they should actually measure it to give you a benchmark of exactly how good/bad it is, how far you have to go to remedy it, and what you can do.

(I finally got a "hey, you did a good job on the gums since last time" from the dentist last week...)
posted by gimonca at 7:31 AM on February 26, 2010

Minor gum recession can definitely be reverted. It can be caused by something as simple as brushing too hard. A dentist can give you a better idea of some possible causes, based on the location in your mouth. They may suggest that you first switch to a softer brush to see if that helps.

Do you floss? Regular flossing is very important to gum health. I've always been a very regular twice-a-day brusher, but I still had to pull myself from the brink of bad gum issues by flossing like crazy.
posted by transporter accident amy at 7:31 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe you're grinding your teeth at night because of increased stress, which is causing the gum issue? I know I grind my teeth in my sleep when I'm under a lot of stress. I would still at least talk to the dentist, see what's up. If you are a grinder, you can get a bite plate which should help.

Also, even if your gum and your stress level are totally unrelated, make sure to take care of yourself to try and mitigate whatever is causing your stress -- eating right and taking time out to exercise, meditate, whatever, definitely helps. (I have three months in which to finish a dissertation, so I'm speaking from personal experience here.)
posted by kataclysm at 7:32 AM on February 26, 2010

This is typically a sign of gingivitis or periodontal disease. Probably a good time to make an appointment with your dentist.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:40 AM on February 26, 2010

Do you floss your teeth? That's the key to preventing gum disease.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:56 AM on February 26, 2010

I was told by my dentist that too-vigorous brushing near the gums can cause this. An electric toothbrush was recommended.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:16 AM on February 26, 2010

Pay attention to how you brush. I brush too hard (with a manual toothbrush) and have caused the gums on my teeth to recede--but only on the left side of my mouth. (I'm right handed, and apparently heavy handed when it comes to brushing.)

I bought a Rota-Dent toothbrush and have had not had the problem get worse since.

Gum recession isn't really reversible, without gum grafts (according to my dentists). And that is a painful procedure that takes a while.

Please, see your dentist about this, sooner rather than later.
posted by FergieBelle at 8:30 AM on February 26, 2010

Go to the dentist. I had this going on, and last time I went I was told to use a softer toothbrush and to get my teeth cleaned professionally more often. Even good brushing and flossing isn't enough to prevent all tartar build-up, and the dentist said it was the tartar causing the gum to pull away. And indeed, the professional cleaning fixed me right up. Gums are back to normal.
posted by Mavri at 9:22 AM on February 26, 2010

I used to manage a dental office. Only a dentist who has looked in your mouth can diagnose what's going on in your mouth.

Please go to the dentist.
posted by bilabial at 9:23 AM on February 26, 2010

Best answer: The best thing you can do for your peace of mind is go to the dentist. There are several possible causes, with different solutions, and you can discuss everything with the dentist to figure out what's going on and what to do about it.

Nobody loves going to the dentist, but it's really less stressful than worrying about stuff on your own. (Dunno about you, but I have a wicked imagination that loves to run with totally outlandish worst-case-scenarios, especially at 3 a.m. So far, reality has always been much less awful than my fears.)

You'll feel a lot better with a professional diagnosis and treatment plan.
posted by Quietgal at 9:26 AM on February 26, 2010

Before everyone disturbs you with tales of gum grafts, let me just tell you I had to have it done on two teeth due to gum recession (I grind my teeth *and* brush too hard. Double whammy!) I was in an absolute panic the morning of my surgery, because I'm easily squicked out by surgical stuff and it gives me major anxiety to think of it being done to me, and started off sobbing in the surgeon's chair (they weren't putting me under -- just giving me Novacaine).

Once they got me calmed down, what followed was the most painless Novacaine shot I've ever had and an approximately 45 minute surgery which, as long as I didn't think too hard about it, was a breeze. I actually was laughing at the end when I could feel the needle threaded through my gum but felt no pain -- it was a weird sensation. My mouth was sore the rest of the day (they gave me heavy drugs I didn't use -- just ibuprofen) and the bandage thing was annoying for a week or so, but it wasn't at any point *painful*. So. Don't let people scare you away from seeing the dentist about this, because if this is what's going on, it is important that you get it fixed.
posted by olinerd at 10:54 AM on February 26, 2010

I've had this happen to me twice. Once required a gum graft which is not painful, apart from the expense ($1000 per location). The other time was my last molar and the gum had pull away so much that they told me it would be easiest to just pull the tooth. I went to a periodontist and had bone graft tissue regeneration and closed the gum pocket... a mere $2800.

I don't mean to scare you, but after these two occurrences, I will no longer ignore the dental hygienist and her lectures about flossing.

If the dentist/hygienist can get to the plaque and remove it, you may still be ok. Ask them what the pocket depth is. Over 5mm is not so good, but they will tell you that.
posted by jmmpangaea at 11:39 AM on February 26, 2010

Dentist, stat. Gum disease can lead to expensive surgery.
posted by chairface at 12:00 PM on February 26, 2010

nthing the possible gum recession, periodontal disease and/or gingivitis.

Do you floss, every day? What about using a gum pick, like this? It's really important to lightly trace each tooth's gumline, daily, to remove all the food bits and bacteria that collect and fester and cause the gums to develop 'pockets' between them and the teeth. You may notice bleeding for the first several days or weeks that you use the pick. That's ok, keep doing it, regularly, and you should see improvement. But go to the dentist.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:46 PM on February 26, 2010

Nthing talk to a dentist!

Gum recession can also be caused by oddities in your teeth alignment, and could be why you just have recession in one spot. I have an overcrowded mouth and some crooked teeth which, according to the dental surgeon, is what caused my gum recession just on the outside of two of my bottom teeth. I ended up having gum grafts (since it's not a matter of brushing better). They also got me using an electric toothbrush with soft bristles just in case.

Also, my impression was that everyone gets some gum recession if you get older. If you go to a dentist they'll also be able to tell you if your amount of recession is ok (my hygenist even had a little measuring poker) or needs a graft, or is something else altogether. So many of my friends hate their dentist and so avoid it; find a good dentist (or at least hygenist) you are comfortable talking to.
posted by SarahbytheSea at 5:00 PM on February 26, 2010

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