What is gum recession?

Gum recession is when the gums shrink, or pull away from, the teeth. Gum recession can happen to people of all ages. Sometimes it happens even if a person takes good care of his or her teeth. Gum recession can cause problems for your oral health. If you have gum recession, your dentist can help you understand the causes and recommend a treatment.
Sanda M. Moldovan, DDS
Gum or gingival recession is loss of bone AND soft tissue surrounding the root surface of the tooth. Since the root surface is more porous than enamel, recession can lead to sensitivity to hot and cold temperature foods and even sweets. Because roots are softer than the enamel part of the tooth, cavities can spread quite fast in recession areas. If recession is left untreated and it progresses, teeth can get loose as the supporting structure (bone and gum) is lost.
Jason G. Souyias, DDS
Gum recession is where the gum tissue shrinks away from the teeth. There are a multitude of conditions that cause gum recession but getting older is not one of them. Many patients believe that teeth simply get longer as they get older, with proper care this does not have to be the case.

Some of the conditions that lead to gum recession are:
  • Periodontitis: a chronic bacterial infection that leads to destruction of bone and eventual loss of teeth. As the bone is lost the gum shrinks away.
  • Clenching and grinding: a habit that many patients have that creates excessive abnormal forces on teeth.
  • Genetics: some patients simply have thin gum tissue; it's how they were built. Patients with thin gum tissue are more at risk for recession than those with thick gum tissue.
  • Irregular frenal attachments: these are stringy fibrous tissue attachments in different areas of our mouths. If they attach too close to the tooth they can pull on the gum tissue when we move our lips and cheeks.
  • Overly aggressive oral hygiene: scrubbing with a medium or hard bristle toothbrush can wear away tooth structure.
  • Etc.: there are many other factors that can contribute to recession including but not limited to acid reflux, tooth position, cavities, and more.
The key to recession as to most other dental conditions is early detection and correct diagnosis. Work with your dentist and dental specialists to prevent problems before they occur or to treat them before they are too severe. Waiting to address issues will only make the solutions more time consuming, more difficult, and more expensive to treat.
Gum recession, also called gingival recession, is a condition which results from periodontitis as your gums pull away from your teeth and expose the roots below. This often leads to increased sensitivity and damage of the newly exposed roots. If you have gum recession, you may find it difficult to eat sweets or tolerate foods that are hot or cold. Gum recession is increasingly common later in life. It can also be caused by damage to the gum tissue by overzealous brushing. If the extent of your gum recession is severe, you may need a grafting procedure to correct the problem.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.