Gum Recession: a Warning Sign of Gingivitis & Periodontitis (with Pictures)

Healthy gums fit tightly around your teeth. Gum recession is a condition in which the gum margin pulls back, exposing the tooth’s root. Gum recession usually occurs as a result of gingivitis and periodontitis (gum disease). It is a common problem, but most people don’t recognize it because it progresses gradually and causes no pain in the early stages. Gingivitis recession can cause an aesthetic problem because it makes the teeth appear longer than normal, especially anterior teeth. You can treat gingivitis and gum recession at an early stage and stop their progress. However, if they are left untreated, the infection may spread to the tooth-supporting tissues, causing complications such as tooth sensitivity, pain, periodontal pockets, tooth mobility, and eventually tooth loss.

How Gingivitis Causes Gum Recession?

Poor oral hygiene leads to the accumulation of dental plaque and tartar on teeth surfaces. Dental plaque is a film of bacteria that decompose carbohydrates and produce toxins. Plaque can easily be removed by tooth brushing and flossing. If plaque is not removed regularly, it will harden into tartar, which can’t be removed by toothbrushing. Both plaque and tartar irritate gums, causing gingivitis. Healthy gums fit tightly around your teeth and protect them. In gingivitis recession, the gum margin begins to pull back, exposing the tooth’s root. In the early stage, gingivitis can be reversed, and gum recession can be stopped.

However, if gingivitis is left untreated, the infection may spread to the tooth-supporting tissues, and gum recession will worsen. This condition is known as periodontitis, which is a progressed form of gingivitis. Gum recession causes an aesthetic problem because it makes the teeth appear longer than normal. In the advanced stage, receding gums can cause pain, tooth sensitivity, tooth mobility, and eventually tooth loss.

Gum recession caused by gingivitis and periodontitis
Gum recession are usually caused by gingivitis and periodontitis.

What are the Signs & Symptoms of Gingivitis/Periodontitis & Gum Recession?

Most people are not aware that they have gingivitis or gum recession because they progress gradually and cause no pain in the early stage. Recognizing gingivitis will help you treat it early and avoid periodontitis and gum recession. Read more about the “signs & symptoms of gingivitis“. The signs and symptoms of gingivitis/periodontitis & gum recession include:

  • Red, swollen gums: the gums are inflamed and tender to touch.
  • Gum bleeding: this may occur due to the accumulation of plaque and tartar below the gumline.
  • Teeth are long: you may notice that the teeth are longer than normal, especially anterior teeth.
  • Exposed roots: tooth roots are yellowish in color and more sensitive than tooth enamel. If you noticed the exposed tooth’s root or sensitivity to hot or cold, you should visit your dentist immediately for diagnosis and treatment.
  • Periodontal pocket: the inflammation and swelling can cause the gums to pull away from your teeth, forming a space between the teeth and the gums. These spaces are known as periodontal pockets. These pockets accumulate plaque and food debris.
  • Loose Teeth: It is an advanced sign of receding gums, which indicates severe damage to the tooth-supporting tissues.
Signs of Gingivitis / Periodontitis & Gum Recession
Gum recession exposes the tooth’s root, and make the tooth appear longer than normal.

What are the Causes of the Gum Recession?

Gum recession usually occurs as a result of gingivitis and periodontitis. Plaque and tartar damage the gums, causing the gum margin to pull back. However, there are other causes and risk factors for receding gums, include:

  • Wrong toothbrushing technique: using a hard-bristled toothbrush or wrong brushing technique can damage the gums, leading to receding gums.
  • Poor oral hygiene: the accumulation of plaque and tartar on teeth surfaces can cause gingivitis recession.
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco: smoking weakens your immune system and makes it harder for your body to fight infection.
  • Hormonal changes: for example, during pregnancy and menstrual cycle.
  • Dry mouth condition: it increases the risk of gum recession.
  • Age: The risk of receding gums increases with age. According to the CDA, receding gums occurs in adults 40 years or older.
  • Medications: some medication that causes dry mouth as a side effect, for example, anti-convulsant, hypertensive medications, and chemotherapy drugs.
  • Medical conditions: The risk of receding gums may increase with some medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus and HIV.
  • Misaligned teeth: they accumulate plaque and tartar more rapidly than well-aligned teeth. Also, it is difficult to clean misaligned teeth, which increases the risk of gingivitis recession. Besides, the wrong distribution of bite force can cause damage to the tooth-supporting tissues and recession.
  • Teeth grinding and clenching: the excessive force on the teeth can destroy the tooth and its supporting tissues, which can lead to tooth wear, tooth fracture, sensitivity, receding gums, tooth mobility, and tooth loss.
  • Injury: trauma to the gums during a fall, playing a contact sport, or other accident may cause receding gums.

How Gum Recession & Gingivitis/Periodontitis are Treated?

Receding gums don’t grow back because gum tissue doesn’t regenerate like other types of tissues, for example, skin tissues. The treatment aims to stop the progress of gum recession. If you have noticed gum recession or other signs of gingivitis, you should visit your dentist immediately for diagnosis and treatment. Gingivitis and mild gum recession are usually treated by deep cleaning, also known as scaling and root planing. Your dentist will use a scaler to remove the plaque and tartar from above and below the gumline. Also, they will smooth out your teeth roots to:

  • Make it difficult for bacteria to attach themselves, and
  • Help your gums reattach to your teeth.

The deep cleaning may be performed under local anesthesia and may require more than one visit to the dentist. Also, your dentist may recommend orthodontic treatment if receding gums occur as a result of misaligned teeth.

Surgery for the Treatment of Receding Gums

If the gingivitis is left untreated, the infection may spread to the tooth-supporting tissues, causing periodontitis and moderate to severe gum recession. In this case, your periodontist may recommend surgery to treat periodontitis and receding gums. There are 2 surgical options:

Flap Surgery

If the deep cleaning failed to treat the receding gums, your dentist may perform a flap surgery. In this procedure, the periodontist lifts up the gums and cleans the root surfaces. Then, they will suture the gums back in place when the procedure is over.

Bone & Gum Graft Surgery

The purpose of this procedure is to repair gum recession by replacing the lost gum or bone tissues. In the gum graft surgery, the periodontist will take a small amount of tissue from one area, for example, the palate, and place it in the desired area to replace the lost gum tissues. Receding gums may occur as a result of the loss of supporting bone. So, your dentist may recommend a bone graft surgery, which involves the placement of either synthetic particles or a piece of bone to help the supporting bone grow back

Gum tissue grafts are effective at repairing gum recession. However, this won’t prevent the development of the problem in the future. So, you have to maintain good oral hygiene at home and visit your dentist for regular dental checkups.

Gum graft surgery for the treatment of gum recssion
Gum tissue grafts are effective at repairing gum recession.

Prevention of Gingivitis/Periodontitis and Gum Recession

Prevention of gingivitis recession is better than treatment because receding gums won’t grow back, causing a permanent aesthetic problem. These tips will help you prevent gingivitis/periodontitis and gum recession:

  • Practice good oral hygiene: brush your teeth at least twice per day, and floss your teeth at least once per day.
  • Use the right toothbrush: choose a soft-bristled toothbrush with a size and shape that allows access to all parts of the mouth. Also, replace your toothbrush every 2-4 months.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste & antiseptic mouthwash: to help fight plaque bacteria.
  • Follow the right brushing technique: brushing your teeth aggressively or following the wrong brushing technique can lead to gum recession.
  • Wear a mouthguard: If you have a teeth-grinding, wear a mouthguard to prevent the destruction of tooth-supporting tissues.
  • Visit your dentist regularly: schedule an appointment with your dentist for a regular check-up and professional teeth cleaning.

Summary

  • Gum recession is a condition in which the gum margin pulls back, exposing the tooth’s root.
  • It usually occurs as a result of gingivitis and periodontitis (gum disease).
  • Other causes include wrong tooth brushing technique, teeth grinding, and misaligned teeth.
  • The treatment includes deep cleaning, flap surgery, bone & gum graft surgery, depending on the severity of the gum recession.
  • Also, your dentist may recommend orthodontic treatment if it occurs as a result of misaligned teeth.
  • Receding gums won’t grow back because gum tissue doesn’t regenerate like other types of tissues.
  • The treatment aims to reverse gingivitis and stop periodontitis & gum recession progress.
  • Prevention of gingivitis recession is better than treatment. So, practice good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly.

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