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Gum Recession Explained

Gingival or gum recession is a condition where the protective tissue around your teeth is lost and pulls away towards the root.

There are two major oral health issues that can cause the loss of tissue around the teeth, thereby causing possible temperature sensitivity and also expose the less dense (enamel is thinner) root area of the tooth to decay.

Recession can be caused by improper tooth brushing (toothbrush abrasion) and also by periodontal disease (gum disease).

In toothbrush abrasion, the enamel at the gum line is worn away by scrubbing the sides of the teeth in a washboard fashion. Over time, this horizontal brushing wears away the protective enamel, exposing the inner nerve-containing part of the tooth called dentin.

Dentin is comprised of tiny tubules which extend from the surface of the tooth to the nerve of the tooth. Once the necks of the teeth are worn through and the gums have receded, cold temperatures and sweets touch the outside of these dentin tubules and the stimulus is extended to the nerve which is perceived as pain.

Methods of reducing the the discomfort to touch and temperature changes include:
  • Use of a desensitizing toothpaste
  • Have a bonded resin restorations placed over the worn areas along the necks of the teeth
  • Cover exposed sensitive root surface areas with soft tissue grafts
The other major cause for gum tissue to recede or shrink away from the necks of the teeth periodontal gum disease and bone loss.

Inadequate brushing and flossing allows bacteria to sit in between the teeth which causes a chronic low grade gum infection. This leads to toxins being released by the bacteria which painlessly causes the bone to get eaten away from around the teeth.

As the gum disease progresses, the teeth appear longer and the gums start to recede along with the bone loss.

Periodontal disease can start during teenaged years and may progress painlessly for years before actual awareness of the condition emerges. Bone tissue usually wears away from around the roots of the teeth faster than the gum tissue can follow.

What is created during this cycle of periodontal disease is deep gum pockets which are very hard to clean out and contain millions of bacterial cells that continue to destroy bone. As more bone support is lost around the roots of the teeth, they become mobile and loose and is usually accompanied by foul breath.

Patients with suspected gum disease should undergo a thorough periodontal examination including a periodontal probe screening to check for gum pockets and bone loss. The earlier a periodontal gum disease problem is diagnosed and treated, the better long-term prognosis for eliminating extensive tooth loss.

Although skilled dentists with substantial experience in treating various stages of gum disease and Periodontists can provide treatments to arrest the disease and successfully restore the affected teeth .... it does require treating the disease in its early stages.

Left untreated..... it will result in significant loss of critical bone mass and structure... thereby causing tooth loss with little hope of regaining healthy teeth. In significant cases, the bone loss can prevent the fitting of dentures.

Ron Briglia, DMD

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