Gum recession occurs when the gums begin wearing away and exposing the underlying root surface of a tooth. Gum recession can be either localized to a particular area or generalized throughout the mouth. When you see your dental professional, any areas of gum recession will be recorded for comparison at the next visit. Gum recession is measured in millimetre increments and can be either active or stable. Stable recession is recession that hasn’t changed in depth over several visits, and active recession is recession that is growing in size from visit to visit. Active and sometimes even stable recession may require treatment depending on the depth, location and cause.
Several different factors can cause gum recession. Often, aggressive brushing habits lead to recession. Using a toothbrush that’s too firm (hard and medium manual toothbrushes are never recommended) as well as applying too much pressure with the toothbrush can lead to gum recession. Improper tooth brushing technique is a significant cause of recession. In addition, gum recession can be caused by improper occlusion of the teeth and clenching/ grinding, both of these causes put excessive forces on specific areas that the bone and gums can’t handle, causing them to recede over time. Trauma can also cause gum recession. A hit to a tooth, oral piercings or oral habits such as nail biting can all cause recession. Genetics also play a role in gum and tooth health and may indirectly contribute to recession.
Prevention of gum recession depends on which factors may be causing the gum recession. It is important to make sure you aren’t brushing too aggressively. Use a super soft or soft toothbrush (or electric toothbrush,). Wear a night guard every night if you are prone to clenching and grinding. Reduce any habits that might irritate or damage the gums.
Gum recession is measured and recorded at dental cleanings, so it will be noticed if it’s increasing in depth. Minimal and stable recession of 1-2mm may be okay to leave, whereas recession of 3mm or more may require attention. Gum grafting is used to treat areas of recession. The procedure involves using gum tissue relocated from elsewhere in the mouth, usually the palate, and covering up the area of recession. Sometimes synthetic or donor tissue can be used.