Gingival recession (receding gums) is the exposure of the roots due to the loss of gum tissue and is a condition that occurs gradually over the years. Gum recession is a common problem in adults over the age of 40, but it may also occur starting from the teens. It may exist with or without concomitant decrease in crown-to-root ratio (recession of alveolar bone). It may remain unnoticed until the condition starts to cause symptoms.
What are the causes for recession?
There are many possible causes for gingival recession. The most common is gum disease or periodontal disease because the bacteria build up and tartar between the teeth due to inadequate brushing and flossing causes a chronic, painless inflammation leading to gradual recession and increased tooth mobility as the supporting bone is lost. Other causes are overaggressive brushing which wears the enamel at the gum line, improper flossing which can cut the gums, hereditary thin or insufficient gingival tissue, and self inflicted trauma such as using toothpicks to get something out between your teeth or mouth piercings that rub the gums. When teeth are misaligned/crowded or if you are clenching or grinding (bruxism) then these forces can put a lot of pressure on your gums allowing the gums to recede.
Some symptoms are over-sensitive teeth (short, sharp pain triggered by hot, cold, sweet, sour or spicy food and drink), tooth mobility, visible roots, the tooth feels notched at the gum line (abfraction), black spaces between the teeth where the gums use to fill in and the teeth appear longer than normal.
How do we treat and prevent further recession?
So, how do we treat recession? If overly aggressive brushing techniques are eroding the gums, a softer toothbrush and a gentler brushing technique should be used. If poor oral hygiene is a problem, prophylaxis (professional dental cleaning) will be recommended to rid the gum pockets of debris and bacteria. If bruxism is occurring, then we will recommend a night guard. In the case of periodontal disease and severe calculus (tartar) build up, scaling and root planning will be recommended to heal the gingival inflammation and clean the teeth.
Once you lose the gum tissue the only way to get is back is with surgery. Gum tissue regeneration and gum grafting are two excellent ways to restore natural symmetry to the gums and make the smile look more aesthetically pleasing.