Receding gums arise when the gums shrink away and more of the tooth root surface becomes exposed. The primary cause of gum recession is inflammation (gingivitis) caused by bacteria in plaque. Plaque is a film of food debris and bacteria and is not always visible to the naked eye. When plaque is deposited along the gum line, the bacteria in the plaque leads to inflammation of the gums. The plaque can also harder into calculus (also known as tartar). Calculus is a hard, sticky substance that cannot be brushed off and contributes to gum inflammation. Inflamed gums tend to bleed easily. If however this inflammation is chronic over a long period of time, the gums eventually recede and the condition is known as periodontitis. This might occur over a number of years and not be immediately noticeable.
However, once it has occurred, gum recession is irreversible and the lost tissue cannot be regrown. If the gum recession continues unabated, the teeth can loosen up and eventuall fall out.
Other less common causes of gum recession are:
- Past orthodontic treatment- if too much force is applied to teeth to move them, gum recession can occur
- Overly aggressive brushing- brushing too vigorously and with a hard brush can lead to gingival trauma and recession
To prevent gum recession, it is important to have good oral hygiene with the correct toothbrushing technique and daily flossing.
Regular professional cleans are also critical to prevent a high build-up of plaque and calculus.