When I was in high school, I chose my outfits out of four different closets in my home! I wore my mom’s shoes and my younger brother’s shirts, but my favorite was my dad’s sweaters. I would pair his big bulky sweaters with a pair of …shorts! In the middle of the winter, didn’t matter the weather. What was I thinking? Fast forward 25 years and it’s coming full circle for me. My teenage boys wear shorts all winter long.
I’m sure you’ve all noticed this phenomenon – as soon as kids turn 12, they no longer have to wear a coat. I guess they aren’t cold anymore?!? Well, I think I’ve figured it out. At 12 all of their blood rushes to their arms and legs, making them so warm they simply can’t wear a coat or full length pants. (This also explains why they seem to have none of that blood rushing to their brains!!) As I was driving to work this week, I was shaking my head at all the silly teenagers at the bus stop in shorts with no coats, and it got me thinking about teeth – surprise, surprise!
The no-coat-wearing is a pet peeve of mine, and I have a similar one with teeth. If you have receding gums, it is kind of like wearing shorts in the winter! Those roots should be covered, or they will get cold. (I know it’s a stretch, but go with me on this one!) Do you have a place in your mouth where your gums have receded? Are your teeth sensitive around the gumline when you brush or to hot or cold things? If so, you may have been told by a dentist or hygienist that it’s because you brushed your teeth too hard. I have countless patients who have been told this in the past, and it drives me crazy!! Let’s think this one through – if this is the place in your mouth that is the most sensitive, why would you brush too hard there? Why would you just pick that tooth to brush too hard on- why that one and leave the other teeth out? This never made sense to me, so years ago I decided to find out once and for all why gums recede and what to do about it.
I didn’t have to trek to Nepal or kiss the Blarney stone to learn the truth on this one, but I did have to travel to Florida and Seattle to learn from the best dentists in the world. I’m going to simplify hundreds of hours of training into one paragraph – here goes! There are three ways you can lose your teeth- 1. Cavities 2. Gum disease (you lose the bone and gum holding the tooth in) 3. The way they fit together (they can get rocked out of your mouth). You’ve probably heard of the first two, but the third is new to most people.
My favorite analogy is that of a fence post. If you hold the post at the top and start rocking back and forth, the dirt starts to get pushed away from the bottom of the post and the post eventually gets loose. The same thing happens with your teeth. If one or more teeth are hitting too hard or wrong, it’s like rocking that fence post. The gum gets pushed away from the bottom of the tooth and eventually the tooth gets loose. Usually you don’t have any idea that the tooth is taking a beating- your body learns to adapt. The first sign of a problem is those receding gums. And no, getting “long-in-the-tooth” is not just a part of getting older. Receding gums mean a problem at any age.
So, if your gums are receding and you are showing off your roots like my teenagers are showing off their winter legs, let’s talk. There may be some simple solutions to stop the receding – before you rock that tooth right out! Keep warm and I’ll see you soon!
Dr. Michelle Jorgensen