What Is Gum Recession?

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Gum recession is a common phenomenon characterized by a gum line that recedes, or pulls back, revealing more of the surface of one’s teeth. Gum recession is one of the most common oral health conditions. However, because it is slow to progress over time, many people are unaware that they are afflicted with it until the recession becomes noticeable.

Are Your Gums In a Recession?

When gum recession occurs, gum tissue or gingiva that covers and protects part of the tooth has begun to wear away. The gum line, normally seen as a fairly straight line across the row of teeth, begins to appear jagged as the worn tissue leads to visual exposure of more of the enamel surface of each tooth. To the person undergoing this change, his or her teeth may appear more elongated than before. Another sign of gum recession may be heightened tooth sensitivity once the roots of the teeth are exposed.

How Does This Happen?

A number of factors can play a role in the cause of gum recession. Negligence in routine dental care, such as inadequate brushing or failure to obtain regular dental cleanings and examinations, can pave the way for gum recession. Plaque that has built up on the tooth enamel and calcified into tartar can push along the gum line, causing it to recede. The bacteria that cause infectious periodontal disease can destroy gum tissue. Conversely, overzealous tooth brushing that is too rough or too fast can also cause wear and tear on tooth enamel as well as gum tissue.

Female hormonal fluctuations that occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause can increase a woman’s propensity for gum disease and recession. Genetic predisposition can also influence an individual’s chances of susceptibility to gum disease and recession.

Tooth grinding, clenching or misalignment can place excess wear on the teeth, gums and the supporting bone that holds the teeth in place, leading to gum recession.

Periodontal Perils

Gum recession often serves as the prelude for more serious periodontal disease. As the gingiva shrinks back with gum recession, gaps and folds known as pockets result within the gum, creating a haven for harmful bacteria to accumulate and fester. If left untreated, this will ultimately lead to infections and abscesses, bone decay and tooth loss. Bacteria also enter the bloodstream to target such organs as the heart and the kidneys, thus compromising one’s overall health.

Treatment Options

Fortunately, gum recession can be treated through various oral procedures. When diagnosed early, milder cases are usually addressed with a deep cleaning called a tooth scale and root plane. This procedure involves removal of plaque and tartar from the entire tooth including the roots. The teeth are then smoothed, making the surface less receptive to bacteria.

Advanced stages of gum recession may need to be treated with oral surgery. There are several surgical procedures that may be performed. A pocket-depth reduction begins with incisions to expose the pockets. Bacteria are removed, the gum is resituated to reduce the pockets and to cover the roots of the teeth, and the incisions are closed with sutures. Other surgical options involve bone regeneration and soft tissue graft procedures.

Recession Prevention

The most effective way to prevent gum recession is to practice a complete dental health regimen that includes flossing and tooth brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush daily, as well as regular visits to a dentist (such as College Station Dentists) at his or her recommended intervals.

Diligent dental care will go a long way to preserving your gums, keeping your teeth, maintaining your smile, and improving your overall health.


Frank Milton is a freelance writer with a particular interest in dentistry and oral health; those concerned with gum recession or other oral health issue should visit Cashion Dental.

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