Gum recession occurs when there is a loss of the thick gum tissue that normally covers and protects the root.  The root becomes exposed, and the remaining gum tissue is often thin and more susceptible to irritation or inflammation.  The exposed root can be unsightly and make the tooth sensitive to hot or cold.  Additionally, the exposed root is softer than the enamel of the tooth, which makes it more susceptible to decay or cavities.

Several causes of gum recession may include:

  • Trauma to the gum tissues from toothbrushing. 
  •  We recommend either a soft toothbrush or a Sonicare electric toothbrush to prevent this.  Often gum recession from trauma occurs in areas where the gum tissues are very thin to begin with.
  • Muscle attachments (often called frenal attachments).  
  • Several frenum are present in the mouth, with the one that most often causes gum recession being on the lip side of the lower front teeth.  When recession due to a frenum is treated, often the frenum is removed in conjunction with the gum graft.
  • Prominent roots of teeth or thin bone overlying the roots.  
  • This can be due to either teeth roots being too large for the surrounding jaw bone, or when teeth are moved with orthodontics to align them.
  • Trauma from other sources, including metal clasps on removable partial dentures and lip or tongue piercings.

Fortunately areas of recession can be treated, often leading to complete coverage of the exposed root.  Several types of procedures can be used to treat recession, and are covered in our section on Gum Grafting.