What Causes Gum Recession?

When the gum recedes away from the surface of the teeth giving the appearance of longer teeth, it is known as gum recession. It can lead to unsightly aesthetics with spacing developing between the teeth and makes oral hygiene very difficult to upkeep. Subsequently, the gums fall into a deteriorating cycle. Intervention is often required to correct the condition.

Primary Causes

The two leading causes of receding gums are gum disease (periodontitis), and trauma from toothbrushing. Some people are more susceptible than others, particularly if their gums are thin. Local factors such as a frenum (a little fleshy tissue muscle attachment) can also contribute to the local recession.

There is some evidence that grinding and clenching may give the appearance of receding gums; it causes micro-fractures with enamel at the gum line ‘falling off’ making the teeth look longer.

If the cause is periodontitis, management involves treating and stabilising the disease to prevent further destruction. If toothbrush trauma is the cause, prevention may be somewhat more complicated.

How to prevent toothbrush trauma:

  • Use a small-headed, soft textured toothbrush created for sensitive teeth
  • Run the toothbrush under warm water before using it
  • Start brushing the areas with least recession first – these are frequently the inside surfaces of the teeth. By the time you get to the outer surfaces, the toothbrush is likely to soften
  • Use a technique involving small circular or scrubbing motions, whereby you brush one tooth at a time. Avoid large scrubbing horizontal or vertical movements
  • Change your toothbrush the minute it starts to look frayed at the edges
  • Avoid using abrasive toothpaste, such as smokers or whitening toothpaste
  • Avoid brushing too frequently or when particularly stressed
  • Avoid brushing teeth after drinking orange juice or other acidic foods. If you already have some recession, cleaning the exposed softer root surfaces, after the acids have softened them further, causes additional destruction to the tooth and can lead to wear cavities that need to be filled
  • Use an electric toothbrush with a flexible head – a Sonicare toothbrush is ideal

Management of Recession

The first line of treatment of receding gums is prevention. It is important to make sure the primary cause has been addressed and that preventative measures are effective in ensuring no further recession occurs.

A common symptom of recession is sensitive teeth – this can be managed with the use of sensitive toothpaste, fluoride applications (such as gels, varnishes and mouthwashes), application of desensitising agents, and fillings. Laser treatment can also help.

Surgical procedures – if the recession affects appearance, makes the teeth very sensitive or affects a patient’s ability to clean effectively, surgical procedures can replace gum where it has been lost. This procedure cannot be applied to all cases of recession, each case needs to be assessed on an individual basis.

Grafting procedures may be used, whereby tissue is taken from elsewhere in the mouth and transferred to the affected site. In some cases, we can use artificial grafting materials or tissue taken from cadavers to treat multiple recession sites. Various other surgical procedures are available and can be used where appropriate.

For a localised recession, frenectomy procedures may be needed to cut-away soft tissue that pulls the gum line down; we carry this out using lasers.

Key Points

  • Receding gums are not something that simply occurs with old age
  • The underlying cause needs to be addressed
  • It is frequently managed conservatively through preventative measures
  • More advanced procedures are available and may be necessary to manage recession defects, for both cosmetic and preventative reasons

At Al-FaPerio, the UK’s leading Periodontal Clinic based in Essex, we proudly serve patients from London to achieve healthier gums. Contact us on 020 8506 0701 or visit us at our Essex clinic by booking a consultation with us today.

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