What is gum recession, and why does it happen?

Gum recession is a condition in which the gums begin to pull back from the surface of the teeth, resulting in a shrinking gumline and increased tooth exposure. Receding gums often occur gradually, which makes it tough for many patients to notice what’s happening until the recession has progressed to a severe level.

Cases of gum recession can vary widely from person to person. Some individuals may experience minor symptoms that are easily remedied through a change of hygiene habits or minimal periodontal therapy. Others may experience quite extensive recession caused by an underlying oral health issue that may result in the need for long-term periodontal therapy and oral surgery.

Is gum recession normal?

The old phrase “long in the tooth” may accurately apply to horses, but contrary to popular belief, gum recession isn’t a normal part of aging for people. Receding gums occurs more frequently in adults over the age of 50, though it isn’t because of age. Rather, many adults find themselves at a higher risk for developing oral health conditions that may result in receding gums as a symptom.

What causes gum recession?

Gum recession can happen for many reasons, but most come down to three factors relating to oral health and lifestyle.

1. Gum Disease

Periodontal (gum) disease is the most common cause of gum recession in all ages. Mild forms of gum disease or gingivitis can lead to minor cases, and naturally, severe gum disease known as periodontitis can cause serious destruction to the gums.

We’ll go more in detail on recession and gum disease below.

2. Physical Damage

Physical damage to the gums is the second most common cause of gum recession. This damage can occur from brushing your teeth too hard, especially in combination with a stiff-bristled toothbrush. Poorly fitting dental appliances (i.e. dentures) can also cause gums to recede due to constantly rubbing. Physical damage can cause gum disease if the gums are constantly irritated and inflamed.

3. Genetics

It’s believed that gum recession could be hereditary in nature, particularly cases relating to gum disease. Individuals may also have thinner gums than others due to genetic factors, increasing the chances of physical irritation causing gums to recede or wear down.

Who’s at risk for receding gums?

Individuals who are high-risk for periodontal disease are inherently predisposed for developing receding gums as well. Drinking alcohol often and the use of tobacco products also greatly increase the risk of gum recession. Poor oral hygiene habits and a history of chronic tooth decay also affect a person’s risk for receding gums.

The Connection Between Receding Gums and Gum Disease

In the vast majority of gum recession cases, either gingivitis or periodontitis are the real underlying causes. However, even when gum disease isn’t the cause, such as in the case of physical damage, gum disease can happen as a result of the gums receding.

Gum health is a crucial factor in overall oral health. Think of your gums as the foundation of your smile that gives your teeth stability and strength. Unhealthy gums can’t support healthy teeth and similarly, decayed, damaged, and missing teeth struggle to support healthy gums.

If you’re experiencing gum recession as a result of gum disease, the only way to stop it is to first treat your gum disease through periodontal therapy with a skilled dentist.

A Word About Peri-Implantitis, Dental Implants, and Gum Recession

Peri-implantitis is a condition very similar to gum disease that specifically occurs around a dental implant. Peri-implantitis is a gum infection that targets the soft and hard gum tissues as well as the bone in your jaw. Though rare, peri-implantitis is more likely to occur during the initial healing of a new dental implant.

Dental implants mimic natural teeth in essentially every way, and that includes the possibility of recession and gum disease if not properly cared for. Receding gums are not more likely to occur around a dental implant than a natural tooth, but if it does occur, it’s important to seek help swiftly, as receding gums around a dental implant can lead to peri-implantitis and total implant failure or rejection.

Treatment Options for Halting and Preventing Gum Recession

Treatment options for stopping gum recession focuses first on diagnosing the underlying cause.

For cases of gum recession related to physical damage, you and your dentist will figure out what’s hurting your gums and find a solution.

If you’re brushing too hard or using the wrong type of toothbrush, your dentist will guide you toward an appropriate soft-bristled toothbrush and go over proper technique. You’ll also have a deep cleaning with a hygienist and, if some gingivitis is occurring, perhaps a few periodontal therapy sessions as well.

Similar steps will be taken if your dentures, partial dentures, or other oral appliance is causing recession from a poor fit. You’ll be refit with a new appliance, or better yet, you and your dentist can discuss upgrading to dental implants or implant-supported dentures!

For cases of gum recession caused by gum disease, your dentist will immediately begin treating your gingivitis or periodontitis.

Gum disease is treated in a few different ways, including non-surgical options like periodontal therapy (scaling and root planing deep cleaning) and Arestin, a topical antibiotic specifically designed for periodontal disease. Arestin is placed after your scaling and root planing session to ensure maximum effectiveness.

If you’ve experienced severe recession, don’t lose hope. The team at Bentz Dental Implant & Prosthodontic Center will help you get your smile back through oral surgery, extensive periodontal therapy, and a combination of restorative and cosmetic dental care.

Put an end to your gum recession by booking a consultation with Dr. Bentz.

Conveniently located in East Norriton, Dr. Bentz and his skilled team can help stop your gum recession and get you onto the road to a healthy, stunning smile. The first step is to schedule a consultation by calling our office or filling out this quick online form. From there, you can look forward to your visit, where you’ll get an answer to your frustrating recession and begin a treatment plan tailored to your oral health needs.


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2601 Dekalb Pike
East Norriton, PA 19401

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