Nineteenth-century horse dealers were not particularly reliable so seasoned buyers often checked the animal’s mouth.
If the teeth looked long it meant that his gums had retracted, indicating that he might be older than he was told.
Is it the same with human beings?
Gingival recession, as it is formally known, is more common among the elderly.
A study done in the United States of almost 10,000 people found that 38% of those between 30 and 39 years of age suffered from this condition to some degree, compared with 71% of the group aged 50 to 59 years and 90% among those aged between 80 and 90 years.
However, that does not mean that aging is the cause.
It is a long process that can start in adolescence and can be triggered by various factors.
Heritage and Hygiene
In some cases, there is nothing that people can do to reduce the chances of developing the condition.
There are people who inherit thin and fragile gums that retract more easily.
Others have teeth that are clenched or protruding, which implies that there is not enough space in the jaw to cover the tooth root.
Dental hygiene also plays an important role.
On our teeth the plate is constantly formed, which is a film of bacteria.
If one does not prevent it from accumulating by brushing and flossing, plaque can cause periodontal disease.
If it is not cured, a possible complication is the destruction of the bone that surrounds the tooth and the tissue of the gum on which it sits.
As the tissue retracts, the root of the tooth is exposed, which makes it look longer.
Dentists emphasize the importance of brushing.
It also matters the way we brush our teeth.
If one does it with lateral movements with a hard brush, there is the problem of gradually wearing down the gum.
That is why dentists tend to advise you to brush in small circles with a soft brush or use an electric toothbrush to avoid pressure.
The damage accumulates over time, causing the gums to retract imperceptibly, until one day one looks in the mirror and realizes that it has changed.
As this transformation can take decades, many people assume that it is part of the natural process of aging.
Examining those who know
Research on gingival recession often depends on asking people what toothbrush they use, what movements they do and how much pressure they put on.
There are those who argue that due to the lack of controlled studies, there is no definitive evidence that brushing with force does more than because temporary abrasions, but many dentists do consider that there is a link. The condition is more common among smokers.
Not only for vanity
It is worth taking this condition seriously and not only for cosmetic reasons.
The root of the teeth is not protected with enamel in the same way as the crown, so that when it is exposed it is sensitive and more prone to deterioration.
So if you want to buy a horse, it might be good for him to look at his teeth.
But getting old does not cause retraction of the gums: simply, the damage accumulates and becomes more obvious with time.