Receding Gums Symptoms

The gums play several important roles beyond just supporting the teeth.  Healthy gums reduce the risk of infection, prevent tooth loss, and provide visually attractive smiles.  During gum recession, gum tissue pulls away from the tooth leaving the roots exposed.  As the condition progresses, health, functionality, and cosmetic concerns arise.

Despite being a very common dental condition, many people are not familiar with how gum recession develops.  To better educate patients, this article will highlight some of the signs, symptoms, and causes of gum recession.

Signs and Symptoms of Receding Gums

During the initial stages of receding gums, the patient may not notice the loss of gum tissue but may experience redness and swelling in the gums.  The gums may bleed when flossing and brushing which could also indicate gum disease (gingivitis).

Healthy gum tissue should securely fit around the tooth crown (like the collar on a shirt).  As recession progresses, gum tissue will begin to pull away from the teeth.  As a result, more of the tooth surface may be visible than previously.  In certain cases, the gum tissue may recede to the extent that tooth roots are visible.  Should a patient notice gum tissue slowly deteriorating around a tooth, there is likely an underlying dental problem that needs to be addressed.

Other symptoms commonly associated with receding gums include:

  • Bad breath – caused by bacteria that become trapped in spaces created by recession
  • Pain at the gumline
  • Redness and swelling in the gums
  • Visibly shrinking gums
  • Exposed roots
  • Loose teeth

Causes of Gum Recession

Gum recession can be due to several factors including:

  • Periodontal Diseases:  Caused by bacteria, these gum infections destroy the gum tissue and bone that hold the teeth in place.  The main cause of receding gums, periodontal disease often goes unnoticed because it is not painful.  But if left untreated, periodontitis can develop which will necessitate more aggressive treatment.
  • Poor Oral Hygiene:  Failing to adequately floss, brush, or use antibacterial mouthwash, can allow plaque to form.  Once the plaque hardens into tartar, a professional tooth cleaning will be necessary to remove it.
  • Genetics:  Certain individuals are genetically predisposed to gum disease.  Studies have indicated that as much as 30% of the population has this predisposition regardless of how well they take care of their teeth.  Other patients could have naturally misaligned bites or crooked teeth which can lead to excessive force being exerted on the gum and surrounding bones in the affected areas.
  • Overly Forceful Brushing:  Brushing incorrectly or too forcefully can damage the tooth enamel and wear away the gums.  When brushing, use less pressure and ensure the toothbrush has soft bristles.
  • Hormone Levels:  As women go through puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, hormonal changes in estrogen levels can make gum tissue more sensitive and vulnerable to recession.
  • Smoking and Tobacco Product Use:  Smokers and tobacco users are more likely to develop plaque which can contribute to gum recession.
  • Clenching and Grinding the Teeth:  Often a behavioral habit or the result of medication, clenching or grinding the teeth exerts excessive force on the teeth which can cause gum recession.

Fixing Receding Gums