Gum recession, also known as gingival recession or receding gums, is a condition in which the roots of the teeth become exposed because your gums have worn away (receded) or moved to a lower position on your tooth.
This may lead to an increased risk of tooth decay and/or tooth sensitivity. Exposed roots can be sensitive to touch, hot, cold, sweet, and acidic foods and drinks.
The good news is that advances in oral hygiene products and dental care now means that treatment for sensitivity can be very effective and easy to achieve.
Maintaining healthy gums
Keeping your gums healthy is a good way to minimise the chances of gum disease which is a cause of gum recession. Brushing twice a day, flossing daily and twice-yearly dental visits can help you to avoid gum disease.
But for some people, it's not that simple. Your genetic makeup can contribute to gum recession, despite doing your best with hygiene practices. For example, teeth that are more prominent are often covered with only thin gum tissue which wears away more easily with vigorous toothbrushing leading to gum recession and sometimes wear on the tooth root surface as well.
Gum recession might occur very slowly, sometimes over a period of years. This can make it tough to spot if you don't experience pain or sensitivity. However, if you notice that your teeth appear longer, or the spaces in between them appear bigger at the base, contact your dental professional, as these may be signs that your gums are receding and some treatment may be required.
How to Prevent Receding Gums
If you think you may have gum recession, it’s important to determine what factors are contributing to the recession, so they can be lessened or eliminated. For instance, you may need to brush less vigorously and be sure to use a soft toothbrush held with a pen grip rather than with your whole hand. In this way you will apply less pressure to your teeth and gums.
Once you know what may be causing your gum recession, try and limit these factors. If the recession is progressive or causing problems with sensitivity or appearance gum grafting may be an option.
Gum grafting is a treatment that can be used in some circumstances where gums have receded. A dental professional may remove some of your healthy soft tissue, for example, from the roof of the mouth, to replace missing gum tissue. For this procedure, your dental professional may recommend that you see a periodontist, a dental specialist who treats the gum tissue and supporting bone.
How to Treat Gum Disease
Gum disease can cause your gums to recede as well as bone around the teeth to be lost. It is important to visit your dental professional regularly to have your gums checked. If you have gum disease you will require treatment.
Cleaning the root surfaces of teeth
Your dental professional will remove plaque and tartar from your teeth and root surfaces both above and below the gum line if necessary. This procedure is called scaling and root planing, or root surface debridement.
In some cases of gum disease where the bone has been destroyed, it may be possible for a periodontist to perform a surgical procedure where a regenerative material is placed in the area of bone loss to help regenerate the bone and tissue.