Gingival Recession

gingival recession receding gumsIn dentistry, gingival recession (receding gums) refers to exposure in the roots of the teeth caused by a loss of gum tissue and/or retraction of the gingival margin from the crown of the teeth. Gum recession is a common problem in adults over the age of 40, but it may also occur starting from the teens. It may exist with or without concomitant decrease in crown-to-root ratio.

There are many possible causes for gingival recession:

  • By far the most common cause is gum disease (periodontal disease).
  • Overaggressive brushing is also cited to cause gum recession. One systemic review of the literature concluded that “The data to support or refute the association between tooth brushing and gingival recession are inconclusive,” although aggressive or forceful brushing was not specifically addressed. A subsequent study found horizontal tooth brushing technique (versus Bass technique or circular methods), medium-hardness toothbrush use and brushing only once daily were associated with gingival recession.
  • Improper flossing (i.e., flossing too roughly or aggressively) which may cut into the gums.
  • Hereditary thin, fragile or insufficient gingival tissue predisposes to gingival recession.
  • Dipping tobacco, which affects the mucous membrane lining in the mouth and will cause receding gums over time
  • Self-inflicted trauma, such as habits like digging a fingernail or pencil into the gum. This type of recession more commonly associated with children and persons with psychiatric disorders.
  • Scurvy (lack of dietary vitamin C)
  • Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis
  • Abnormal tooth position, such as tooth crowding, giving inadequate cover of one or more teeth by the jaw bone.
  • Piercings in the lip or tongue that wear away the gum by rubbing against it.
  • Intentional gingival retraction. For example, the adult tooth may not grow out of the gum, and to remedy this, a procedure called an exposure is done. It involves the gum tissue being cut open to allow the adult tooth to grow out. This is a less common cause of gum recession.