One of the most common concerns our patients ask us about is “receding gums.” Know technically as “gingival recession” receding gums is the process by which the gum tissue surrounding a tooth tends to recede – or “grow down” over time. You can often tell a tooth has had receding gums surrounding it because the tooth may start to appear to look longer, or it may start to look as if the bottom portion of the tooth (the cervical area) has gotten darker. In fact the tooth hasn’t become longer – it just looks longer to the eye because there is less gingival tissue. Similarly, the tooth hasn’t changed color at all, but with the recession, you are now seeing the naturally darker part of the root’s surface.
There are multiple causes of gingival recession including:
- Loss of bone around the tooth from periodontal disease
- Rough tooth brushing or brushing with a hard tooth brush
- A frenum that impinges and pulls on the gum tissue
Problems that can occur from receding gums include:
- Sensitivity of the exposed root surface
- Increased chance of decay on the root surface
- Esthetic problems as the length of the teeth may appear to change
There are two common treatments for receding gums:
- Free gingival graft: Also known as an “epithelial graft”, in this procedure a small piece of gum tissue is removed from the roof of the mouth, and used to cover the exposed root surface on the tooth with the recession. We often use these types of grafts to help improve the thickness of gum tissue where the tissue may be very thin.
- Connective tissue graft: In this type of graft, a piece of tissue is also taken from the roof of the mouth and placed in another place in the mouth where it is needed. We often use this type of graft to cover exposed root surfaces, or sometimes to help build-up the tissue around dental implants.