What is gum recession? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Our gums protect our teeth and anchor them in place. But, they can be pushed back or wear away, eventually exposing the root of the tooth.  This is a concern because the tooth becomes vulnerable to infection, decay, become loose, and eventually falling out.

Gum recession can be easily seen in the mirror, but may also have some symptoms.  When the root is exposed, some people experience pain and sensitivity to hot or cold.

There are many reasons our gums can recede:

  • Hard and aggressive brushing – it is important to use a gentle touch with your toothbrush and to switch from a manual to an electric toothbrush to protect your gums
  • Genetic factors – in some people, thin gum tissues and the position of the teeth are inherited
  • Poor oral hygiene – having poor at home habits and infrequent visits to the dentist cause lead to infection of the gums and inflammation of the tissues
  • History of orthodontics – the movement of our teeth through our jaw to align a beautiful smile can stretch the gum tissue and may be a cause of gum recession
  • Piercings – lip or tongue piercing have a dramatic effect on our gum tissues, breaking them down very quickly
  • Age – with age, our tissues thin, including our gum tissues.
  • Smoking status – smoking tobacco and/or cannabis is a risk factor for gum recession

A periodontist specializes in gum recession and the treatment of thin and receding gum tissue.  If you or your dentist suspect you have gum recession, a comprehensive examination with a periodontist is a smart choice.

At this appointment, your periodontist will assess your mouth and will make recommendations to either continue to monitor the areas, or to treat them with periodontal grafting surgery.

Periodontal grafting surgery involves grafting tissue from another site of the mouth (usually the palate) and suturing it over the area of recession to allow it to heal in this new area and protect the exposed tooth root.

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