The Ins and Outs of Gum Recession

Hello Team Dental Blog Followers!  It’s Lea! The Team Dental Northern Liberties Hygienist.

This week, I wanted to discuss Gum Recession. This is conclusively the number one reason for sensitivity that I and many other fellow hygienists have noted over the years.

In order to understand why recession causes sensitivity, let’s discuss the tooth. The tooth has two main parts- the crown (the white part we see inside the mouth) and the root (under the gums surrounded by bone). The crown is covered with enamel- the hardest substance in the body (harder than bone!).  Then the root surface is covered by a softer substance called cementum.  And underneath all of those coverings is the most porous part of the tooth- dentin. This element helps us understand recession.

In the perfect world, our gums should cover the whole root of the tooth, only exposing the crown, but over time the root surface becomes exposed.  This is called recession- This could be related to

  • improper brushing (brushing at a 90 degree angle back and forth- a no no!)
  • brushing with a hard toothbrush (always use soft! It is easier to clean into a corner with a mop than a rake, right? Think about it!)
  • misaligned teeth (crooked teeth)
  • clenching and grinding
  • periodontal disease
  • oral piercings
  • lack of flossing

Because the exposed dentin is so porous, we feel sensations like cold and hot more quickly and intensely. You can see in this photo to the right, the yellow part is the root- this is typically what recession looks like!

Unfortunately the gums won’t grow back. But there are other options to correct the recession from worsening. Try using toothpaste specially branded for sensitivity- this can physically ‘clog’ the pores of the tooth, thus blocking the sensations of cold and hot. We can apply a professional fluoride treatment in office, which will help block the sensitivity as well.  Or if the recession is indented and causing severe sensitivity, we can place a tooth colored filling there.  And in extreme cases, we can use a gum graft (exactly as it sounds- we use gums from the roof of your mouth and carefully place them over the recession, and allow this new piece of gums to integrate with your existing gums, looking brand new)!

Bottom line, try to avoid recession! Ways to do this are brushing properly- at a 45 degree angle, in small vibratory circles along the gum line. Use care! Gums are very fragile. Team Dental recommends using an electronic tooth brush (such as a Sonicare). This will allow proper bacterial removal along the gum line without needing to press hard at all! Simply glide along the gum line at a 45 degree angle! See our other posts for more info on this!

Hopefully you are now more educated about gum recession! We value your feedback of our blog posts and are grateful to be called your dental provider!

About Lea

Lea is a graduate of the Camden County College Dental Hygiene Program in Blackwood, New Jersey. And also has her Bachelor’s Degree from St Petersburg College in Clearwater, Florida. In addition to working for Team Dental in Northern Liberties, she also has come full circle and now teaches clinical at Camden County College. Lea has traveled overseas with Global Dental Relief, providing free dental care to children in India and Guatemala. Additionally, she is currently the Vice President of the Southern New Jersey Dental Hygienists’ Association and organizes their Continuing Education Courses. On a personal note, Lea lives in Southern New Jersey and loves traveling, music and singing for her church.

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