Gums recession occurs when the gum tissue lowers and shrinks away from the crown of the tooth, exposing the darker yellow root surfaces. This will make the teeth look longer than they should. A common misconception is gums recession is due to aging. Recession of gums is NOT age-related.
There are 2 main causes of receding gums, namely Periodontitis (Gum Disease) and Over-zealous Toothbrushing.
Periodontal (gum) disease is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the bone and gums supporting the teeth. The tartar (calculus) and plaque (soft yellowish biofilm) found between the teeth and gums harbour a lot of bacteria that will irritate the gums and cause painless, chronic inflammation. When left alone, these plaque and tartar will accumulate below the gumline and gradually cause dental bone loss. Once the bone that is supporting the teeth is lost, gums recession will take place.
Over-zealous brushing often happens when a person brushes too hard, incorrect brushing technique and/or use of incorrect toothbrush. Excessive forces will traumatize the soft delicate gums and the gums respond by shrinking lower. Incorrect scrubbing of the teeth will not only abrade the gums, it will also abrade the enamel and softer root dentine, forming notches/cavities that will result in sensitivity. It is a common misconception that using a stiffer toothbrush will result in cleaner teeth. The stiff bristles are not able to flex and will abrade the gums and good tooth structure. One should always use a soft-bristle toothbrush and brushes gently, with light pressure on the gums.
1. Sensitive teeth especially with sweet/sour/cold food
2. Teeth looking longer
3. Gaps between the teeth getting more obvious
4. Roots are exposed
5. Change in colour of teeth i.e. teeth look yellow near the gum line
6. Decay near the gum line
7. May have inflamed gums (red, puffy, bleeding, tenderness)
Early detection and treatment will result in favourable outcome. However, a thorough dental assessment is needed to correctly diagnose and identify the root cause of the problem as the treatment varies according to the diagnosis. The root cause of the problem MUST be addressed first to halt and prevent further recession of the gums.
Recession due to gum disease (periodontitis) will need gum (periodontal) treatment. It comprises of thorough cleaning (scaling and root planing) of the teeth/root.
Recession due to over-zealous brushing will just need correction of the brushing habits and techniques.
Once the root cause of the problem is addressed and the gums are brought back to good health, gum graft surgery may be indicated depending on severity.