Most patients’ reason for seeing a specialist in periodontics – or gum specialist, also known as a periodontist – is a concern about receding gums. Receding gums don’t
ordinarily grow back without dental treatment. However, there are several things you can do to prevent gum recession and others that we clinicians can do to treat it.
Healthy gum tissue forms a protective collar around a tooth. Gum (or gingival) recession occurs when the edge of the gum tissue (gingival margin) moves away from the crown of the tooth. When gums recede, exposing the tooth’s root, sensitivity may result. Tooth root decay may also develop because the softer root surface decays more readily than the enamel on the tooth’s crown.
Causes and prevention
There are several common causes of gum recession. These include:
- gum disease (periodontitis)
- excessive tooth brushing
- trauma to the gums
- abnormal tooth positioning
- heredity (genetics).
Less commonly, some people have thin, fragile or inadequate gums, making their gums prone to recession. This is especially so in patients where a tooth protrudes or the teeth are crowded and, as a result, there is insufficient jawbone to cover the tooth’s root, causing an increased risk for gum recession.
Signs and symptoms
The most common symptom of receding gums is sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet, sour or spicy food and drink. The sensitivity tends to manifest as a short, sharp pain, lasting for seconds at a time.
Other possible indicators of gum recession are when:
- a tooth becomes loose
- teeth appear longer than normal
- roots are exposed
- a tooth feels notched at the gum line
- a tooth changes colour
- spaces between teeth seem larger.
The type of gum treatment required will be determined by the cause of the gum recession and its severity. When minor recession is ignored, continued recession and bone loss around teeth are likely, something many people may not be aware of.
If your gum recession is due to excessive brushing, a dentist, hygienist or periodontist can show you the most effective oral hygiene methods.
If your gum recession is due to periodontitis, the first step is to see a specialist in periodontics. The initial treatment involves deep cleaning (also known as scaling and root planing). For many patients, this treatment, along with excellent oral hygiene at home and regular check-ups or maintenance, can help control the periodontitis and prevent further gum loss. In some cases, gum recession can be reduced by a gum graft procedure (also known as periodontal plastic surgery). This procedure helps to create more attached gingiva (the thick, pink and firm tissue that hugs the teeth) to prevent progression of the gum recession. It also helps to cover exposed roots, enhances the appearance of the gum line and prevents or treats root sensitivity.