Gingival recession (receding gums) refers to the progressive loss of gum tissue, which can eventually result in tooth root exposure if left untreated. Gum recession is most common in adults over the age of 40, but the process can begin in the teenage years.
Gum recession can be difficult to self-diagnose in its earlier stages because the changes often occur asymptomatically and gradually. Regular dental check-ups will help to prevent gum recession and assess risk factors.
The following symptoms may be indicative of gum recession:
- Sensitive teeth – When the gums recede enough to expose the cementum protecting the tooth root, the dentin tubules beneath will become more susceptible to external stimuli.
- Visible roots – This is one of the main characteristics of a more severe case of gum recession.
- Longer-looking teeth – Individuals experiencing gingival recession often have a “toothy” smile. The length of the teeth is perfectly normal, but the gum tissue has been lost, leaving the teeth exposed and appearing longer.
- Halitosis, inflammation, and bleeding – These symptoms are characteristic of gingivitis or periodontal disease. A bacterial infection causes the gums to recede from the teeth and may cause tooth loss if not treated promptly.
- Overaggressive brushing – Over-brushing can almost be as dangerous to the gums as too little. Brushing too hard or brushing with a hard-bristled toothbrush can erode the tooth enamel at the gum line and irritate/inflame gum tissue.
- Poor oral hygiene – When brushing and flossing are performed improperly or not at all, a plaque buildup can begin to affect the teeth. The plaque contains various bacterial toxins which can promote infection and erode the underlying jawbone.
- Chewing tobacco – Any kind of tobacco use has devastating effects on the entire oral cavity, chewing tobacco in particular. It irritates the gingival lining of the mouth and causes gum recession when used continuously.
- Periodontal disease – Periodontal disease can be a result of improper oral hygiene or can be caused by systemic diseases such as diabetes. The excess sugars in the mouth and narrowed blood vessels experienced by diabetics create a perfect environment for oral bacteria. The bacterium causes inflammation which progresses deeper and deeper into the gum and bone tissue, eventually resulting in tooth loss.