Receding gums (gingival recession) is the loss of gum tissue that can eventually result in tooth root exposure if left untreated. It is most common in adults over 40 but the process can begin in the teenage years. Gum recession begins gradually and asymptomatically, making it difficult to self-diagnose.
Possible symptoms of gum recession
Bad breath, inflammation, and bleeding: These are characteristic of gingivitis or gum disease. Bacterial infection can cause gums to recede and ultimately cause tooth loss if not treated.
Sensitive teeth: When gums recede enough to expose the cementum protecting the tooth root, the teeth become more sensitive.
Longer looking teeth: Receding gums can give the appearance of a “toothy” smile. The length of the teeth is normal but they appear longer because gum tissue has been lost.
Visible roots: This is characteristic of a more advanced stage of gum recession.
Causes of gum recession
Receding gums are a very common problem that dentists diagnose and treat often. A thorough examination is necessary to evaluate the affected area and diagnose the underlying cause. Once the cause is determined, surgical and non surgical treatments are used to stop the progress of the recession and to prevent it from reoccurring.
Common causes of receding gums are:
Poor dental hygiene: When brushing and flossing are performed poorly or not at all, plaque builds up and can affect the teeth. Plaque contains bacteria that can infect and erode the gums and underlying bone.
Overaggressive brushing: Brushing with a hard-bristled toothbrush or brushing too hard can erode tooth enamel at the gum line and inflame or irritate gum tissue.
Gum disease: Gum (periodontal) disease can be caused by poor oral hygiene or by systemic diseases like diabetes. Excess sugars in the mouth and narrow blood vessels in diabetics produce a perfect environment for oral bacteria. The bacteria can cause infection which erodes the gums.
Chewing tobacco: Any type of tobacco use is unhealthy for the entire oral cavity. In particular, chewing tobacco irritates the gingival lining of the mouth and causes gum recession with continued use.
Treatment for receding gums
Treatment for gum recession depends on the cause in each particular case. If poor oral hygiene is the cause, a professional dental cleaning will eliminate debris and bacteria from the teeth and gums. If tartar buildup is the issue, scaling and root planing will be performed to clean the teeth and heal the gingival inflammation. If aggressive brushing is eroding the gums, more gentle brushing and a softer toothbrush should be used.
Once the cause of gum recession has been addressed, cosmetic or restorative procedures may be recommended. Gum grafting and tissue regeneration are excellent ways to restore gums.
If you have any questions or concerns about gum recession, please call or contact our office.