Gum recession is the process in which the margin of the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth wears away, or pulls back, exposing more of the tooth.
In people with receding gums, “pockets” or gaps, form between the teeth and gum line, making it easy for disease-causing bacteria to build up. If left untreated, the supporting tissue and bone structures of the teeth can be severely damaged, and may ultimately result in tooth loss.
Receding gums is a common dental problem. Most people are not aware because it occurs gradually. If you think your gums are receding, make an appointment with your dentist. There are treatments that can repair the gum and prevent further damage.
Signs and symptoms of gum recession:
- Teeth may appear longer than normal (the roots become visible as gums recede)
- The roots of the teeth are exposed and visible
- The teeth feels notched at the gum line
- Change in the teeth colour (due to the colour difference between enamel and the root)
- Over-sensitive teeth – short, sharp pain is triggered by hot, cold, sweet, sour, or spicy food and drink. If the cementum covering the root is not protected anymore by the gums, it is easily abraded exposing the dentin tubules to external stimuli.
- Food getting stuck between the teeth due to lowered gum line.
- Cavities below the gum line.
- Tooth mobility.
Causes of Gum Recession
- Aggressive Tooth brushing: This is a common mistake especially with people who “like a good scrub” when brushing their teeth. Teeth should be brushed in a “Gum to Tooth” direction and never scrubbed!
- Using a hard or firm bristled toothbrush does a great amount of damage to teeth and supporting structures by wearing away the enamel and the gum line. Never use a toothbrush that isn’t labelled “soft”.
- Gum disease: Inadequate brushing and flossing allows bacteria to build up between the teeth and below the gum line.
- Crowded teeth: If your teeth are not well arranged in the jaw bone, this may cause thinning out of the bone covering the teeth which are more pushed out of line.
- Genetics: Thin, fragile or insufficient gingival tissue predisposes to gingival recession. Your gums’ characteristics are determined by your genetics, just as the rest of your body is. If one or both of your parents have gum recession, you may be at a higher risk for receding gums.
- Trauma to gum tissue. The gum tissue may recede when a traumatic injury has occurred on a tooth or teeth or habits such as digging a fingernail or pencil into the gum.
- Piercings in the lip or tongue that wear away the gum by rubbing against it.
Treatment of Receding Gums
- Identifying the cause. Your Dentist will identify the cause and will instruct you in how to address it. You may have to re-evaluate your tooth brushing habits, get a mouth guard or buy a different toothbrush.
- Your dentist will determine whether you would benefit from a special, deeper cleaning called a scaling and root planing. This is frequently the solution when your gum recession is caused by gum disease. Plaque and tartar that has built up on the teeth and root surfaces below the gum line is carefully removed and the exposed root area is smoothed to make it more difficult for bacteria to attach itself. Antibiotics also may be given to get rid of any remaining harmful bacteria.
- Surgical treatment- If your gum recession cannot be treated with only deep cleaning because of excess loss of bone and pockets that are too deep, gum surgery may be required to repair the damage caused by gum recession.