Receding gums

Receding gums, known in the dentistry industry as gingival recession, is when the roots of the teeth are exposed due to the loss of gum tissue. It can also be caused by the retraction or lateral movement of the gingival margin, or crest of the marginal gingiva, from the crown of the teeth.

Whilst it can affect anyone from their teenage years, it is most prevalent in adults who are over the age of forty. It can be referred to as gingival, followed by either retraction or recession, as the former refers to the intentional procedure. This is carried out in a number of procedures, most notably via chemical or electrical means. The latter is non-intentional, possibly indicating an underlying inflammation of some sort. Like most ailments, the sooner it is caught, the more chance of a successful treatment programming minimising any long-term effects, but receding gums treatment is vital because if left untreated, it can, in some cases, lead to tooth loss due to the breakdown of the tissue surrounding the teeth.

To find out more about gum recession and treatment please call us to speak with our friendly team or fill out our contact form.

Causes of gum recession

The two main causes of receding gums are gum disease (periodontitis) and trauma from tooth brushing. If the cause is periodontitis, management involves treating and stabilising the disease in order to prevent further destruction. If tooth brushing trauma is the cause, prevention may be somewhat more challenging since it may be difficult to change brushing habits and “not brush so hard”.

Suggestions for the prevention of toothbrushing trauma

  • Use a soft-textured toothbrush with a small brush head design. Toothbrushes designed for sensitive teeth are particularly suitable to help prevent tooth brushing trauma.
  • Run the toothbrush under warm water before using it. This will soften the toothbrush bristles.
  • Begin by brushing the areas least affected by recession. These areas frequently present the inside surfaces of the back teeth. Once you continue onto brushing the outer surfaces of the teeth, the toothbrush is likely to be softer and it is possible brushing pressure may be reduced at this point.
  • Use the technique involving small vertical motions, in an upward direction (from the gum toward the crown of the tooth), whereby the brush cleans one tooth at a time. Your dentist, dental hygienist or periodontist can demonstrate this technique.
  • Change your toothbrush as soon as it starts to become frayed at the edges (typically by 3 months of use). Toothbrush bristles that have become worn and frayed cause more damage and are less effective at cleaning. The better your tooth brushing technique becomes, the less rapidly your toothbrush will be frayed.
  • Avoid using highly abrasive toothpastes, such as toothpastes designed for whitening or smokers, on areas where the tooth root surfaces are exposed.
  • Brushing too frequently (in excess of 3-4 times per day) may contribute to increased recession.
  • Life circumstance may have an impact on brushing technique. Take care to be gentle with tooth brushing, especially when feeling under stress.
  • Avoid brushing teeth after drinking orange juice or other acidic foods. If you already have gum recession, the softer tooth root surfaces are exposed to the pH conditions created in the mouth through ingestion of various foods. These root surfaces are particularly susceptible to an acidic oral environment. Brushing the exposed root surfaces after consuming acidic food or beverages may cause destruction to the tooth. This can contribute to wear concavities that need to be repaired by your dentist.
  • Electric toothbrushes are supported by research to significantly reduce the amount of plaque able to be cleaned from the teeth. Additionally, many electric toothbrush models have pressure sensors in the brush head and will stop working if too much pressure is applied during use. The force of brushing my further be controlled by models which include flexible brush head design. The electric toothbrush allows one to gently hold the bristles to the teeth while the cleaning action of the bristles remove debris from the teeth without damaging the tooth enamel or exposed root surfaces.

Management of gum recession

The above suggestions will help to prevent tooth brushing trauma and offer modifications to ensure that no further gum recession occurs. The primary cause of gum recession is addressed through effective preventative measures.

A common symptom of recession is sensitive teeth. Sensitivity can be managed with the use of sensitivity type toothpastes, fluoride applications, such as gels, varnishes and mouthwashes, the application of desensitising agents and fillings.

If the recession is affecting appearance, making the teeth very sensitive or affecting the ability to clean effectively, surgical procedures may be indicated to replace gum where it has been lost. This cannot be applied to all cases of recession and each case needs to be assessed on an individual basis to determine the appropriateness and suitability of various procedures. One example of a surgical procedure is gum grafting. During gum grafting, tissue is taken from a specifically selected location in the mouth and this tissue is then transferred to the affected site.

Key points

  • Gum recession is not something that simply occurs with old age.
  • The underlying cause of recession needs to be addressed through modification of tooth brushing routines and habits.
  • Gum recession is frequently managed conservatively through preventative measures.
  • More advanced surgical procedures are available and may be necessary to manage
  • Recession defects, for both cosmetic and preventative reasons.

To find out more about gum recession and treatment please call us to speak with our friendly team or fill out our contact form.