What You Need to Know About Gum Recession

What You Need to Know About Gum Recession

Gum recession is a common condition among older adults. In fact, the expression “long in the tooth” refers to the tendency of periodontal (gum) tissue to pull away from teeth over the years – thereby creating the appearance of longer teeth – as an indicator of progressed age. Formally known as gingival recession, the process can start at any age, but is more typical for those ages 50 and older.

If you practice good oral hygiene and your gums are otherwise healthy, how concerned should you be if you’re noticing more of your tooth surface exposed? As with every aspect of oral health, everything is related. Gum recession can start a “domino effect” leading to tooth loss in the worst-case scenario. We’ll look at what gum recession is, why it’s a risk to oral health, its causes and treatments.

What is Gum Recession?

Let’s start with the basics. The part of the tooth visible above the gum line (the crown) is only about half of its overall structure. Each tooth has a root structure that goes into the jawbone, where it’s anchored. The gums form a tight seal around the teeth – which not only helps keep them in place, but to prevent bacteria from getting into their roots.

When gum recession occurs, “pockets,” or gaps, form between the teeth and gum line, making it easy for disease-causing bacteria to build up. As Willow Glen Dental Specialists explains, “If your gums begin to recede, more of your tooth and its roots are exposed to potentially harmful bacteria. Making matters worse, recession often causes a loosening of the overall seal, which means bacteria and debris can more easily make their way inside your gums and down to the roots.”

Gum recession can be mild, severe, or moderate and may affect multiple teeth or one tooth. Early symptoms often go unnoticed because the process is so gradual. The most apparent sign of gum recession is tooth root exposure, but the process is far advanced by that point. Of course, if you schedule regular six-month dental check-ups, your dentist will catch gum recession early on – and be able to advise you on treatment and care options.

Cleveland Clinic identifies the following as early symptoms:

  • Discomfort or pain near your gum line.
  • Sensitivity to sweets, heat, and cold.
  • Sensitivity when flossing and brushing your teeth.
  • Sensitivity during dental cleanings.

Why Gum Recession is a Risk to Your Oral Health

As mentioned earlier, receding gum tissue leaves the roots of your teeth exposed, making them vulnerable to the bacteria that causes decay. As also mentioned earlier, the gaps that form between the teeth and gum line promote bacterial growth that causes periodontal disease. Our blog post – “Types of Gum Disease” – covers this topic in detail. In its advanced stage, the absence of supporting gingival (gum) structure leads to loosening of the teeth, and eventual tooth loss.

Causes of Gum Recession

Despite its association with age, gum recession has no single cause. According to Cleveland Clinic, each of the following – or a combination thereof – can be a factor:

  • Brushing too hard or too aggressively.
  • Dental plaque or tartar buildup.
  • Periodontal disease.
  • Trauma or injury to your gum tissue.
  • Abnormal tooth positioning (misalignment).
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco use.
  • Lip and tongue piercings.
  • Genetic predisposition.

Medical News Today provides additional factors:

  • Living with diabetes.
  • Medications that cause dry mouth.
  • Certain diseases, such as HIV.
  • Hormonal changes in females.

Treatments for Gum Recession

Most mild gum recession cases do not need treatment. Your dentist may advise you on better oral health care and preventive measures. Basic steps to take include practicing proper tooth brushing techniques to prevent damaging gums. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid over-brushing, applying gentle strokes. If applicable, stop the use of tobacco products and reduce alcohol consumption.

However, if you are suffering from a mild or moderate case of gum recession, your dentist may suggest the following treatment options:

Desensitizing agents, varnishes, and dentin bonding agents – These products aim to reduce the sensitivity of the exposed tooth root. Desensitizing agents treat the nerve symptoms and help preserve oral hygiene by easing the brushing of sensitive teeth.

Composite restoration – A dentist uses tooth-colored composite resins to cover the surface of the root. They can also close the gaps between teeth.

Pink porcelain or composite – This material is the same pink color as the gums. Dentists can use it to fill the gaps where the gums have receded.

Removable gum veneers – These are usually acrylic or silicone, and they artificially replace the large area of missing gum tissue due to recession.

Orthodontics – These include treatments that slowly move the position of the teeth over a long period. This repositioning can correct the gum margin and make it easier to keep the teeth clean.

Surgery – A dental surgeon will graft tissue from another site in the mouth. This tissue heals over the gum recession. A person would usually only need this to treat severely receding gums.

The Take-Home Message

Gum recession is a common condition that can lead to numerous oral health problems if left unchecked. Unlike many other tissues of the human body, gingival tissue doesn’t regenerate. The loss of gum tissue is permanent. Being able to identify early symptoms and making your dentist your partner in oral health can help prevent or limit the progress of gum recession – as well as provide the best restorative treatment for your situation, should it be at an advanced stage.

It is our mission at NK Family Dental to provide the highest quality and most compassionate oral care to our Chicago patients, including dental and periodontal services. Our practice is trusted for advanced oral surgery procedures and comfortable root canal treatment.

Our team of experienced, dedicated dental professionals will help address your oral health concerns, and determine the best solution for you based on your individual situation. We strive to identify treatment options that fit your needs. Our dental specialists include our general dentist, Dr. Nilofer Khan, our endodontist, Dr. Sabek, and our periodontist, Dr. Amir Danesh. Dr. Danesh is a board-certified periodontist and Diplomat of the American Board of Periodontology. He has contributed to the publication of two books, as well as published over 20 papers in prestigious dental research journals.

We serve the neighborhoods of Logan Square, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, and Wicker Park with the dedication that’s earned us the reputation as the Best Dentist in Chicago!

We understand that the main concern you may have is cost, which is why we accept all major PPO plans for dental insurance and also offer our in-house dental plan. Please see our financing page for more information.

Schedule your visit through ZocDoc, or contact us directly. We look forward to treating you soon!


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