What Is Gingival (Gum) Recession?
Gingival recession or gum recession is a dental condition characterized by shrinking gums, which expose the roots of the teeth, potentially creating a variety of oral health problems. A patient may experience the onset of gingival recession at any time, with most cases starting between the late teens and the early 40s. Left untreated, gingival recession can have serious consequences, as the patient may start to lose dentin, an important part of the teeth, and the exposed roots may become tender, sore, or infected, causing immense pain.
What Causes Gum Recession?
There are a variety of causes for gingival recession. One common cause is gum disease, which causes gum loss by inflaming and irritating the gums. The symptoms of gum disease are usually evident before the problem reaches the stage of gum loss, especially in the case of a patient who receives regular dental care, so preventing gingival recession caused by gum disease is possible. Some gum recession is also normal with age.
This condition can also be caused by aggressive oral hygiene, or inadequate oral hygiene. People who brush vigorously with stiff toothbrushes can cause gingival recession, as their gums are damaged by the brushing, and people who do not brush and floss enough may cause gum loss through inflammation and infection, even if no gum disease is present. As a general rule, medium toothbrushes are best, unless a dentist specifically recommends a soft or hard toothbrush, and if brushing causes bleeding or tenderness, a dentist should be consulted. When brushing gums which have recession the technique is very important and the periodontist can customise the brushing technique which allows patients to control the forces applied to these delicate places.
The cause of gingival recession is not always the brushing technique. In fact genetics play a major part in the risk for recession development. Muscle attachments which can pull aggressively at the gums will further exacerbate thin gums and help to develop gingival recession. Certain dental procedures can also result in gingival recession and this is worse when the gingival thickness is reduced. Crowns and veneers which are placed in patients with thin gums are at a greater risk for gum recession. Orthodontic work and certain orthodontic movements may have gingival recession developing. In these circumstances we always feel that pretreatment thickening of the gums can be prevent gum recession developing.
What is the Treatment?
When a dentist notices signs of gingival recession, the first step is usually to try to prevent it from getting any worse. The dentist may also recommend regular followup visits to keep an eye on the patient’s gums, so that he or she can intervene if the gum recession appears to be proceeding rapidly often they will refer to a specialist periodontist – such as Dr Mahnaz Syed.
If gingival recession is caught early, it is sometimes possible to prevent it with changes in diet and oral hygiene. In other cases, however, a more extensive measure may be needed. Gum graft surgery can be used to replace missing or severely damaged tissue; after gum grafts are performed, a patient is typically given very specific care directions to ensure that the gum grafts take, and that they will stay healthy for life.
In the case pictured a young lady presented with sensitivity from this area of recession. In the past correction of this type of problem was difficult and unpredictable. With a small simple surgical procedure Dr Syed was able to graft a small piece of the patients own gum back into position.
This type of “gum grafting” procedure is now predictable and easily managed. It is possible to regenerate (graft) multiple areas at the same time.
Here we can see after 1 month of healing the area of recession has been regenerated. These areas of recession remain stable and healthy for long periods of time. It is always beneficial to check with your dentist or periodontist even if you have a small amount of recession, as it is easier to correct smaller areas of recession rather than large areas.