Talking Teeth

Do You Have Receding Gums?

by Dr. Macon Singletary // April - May - June 2021

Gingival recession is a common result of perio-dontal disease. It occurs when the gums pull away from the tooth because of bacteria or occlusal trauma, increasingly exposing the tooth surface and often giving the tooth a longer appearance. Because the onset of gum disease is initially painless, one of the best ways to determine whether your gums are at risk is to check for gingival recession. But sometimes it can be hard to tell. How do you know if your gums are receding?

First, simply look at your teeth in the mirror. Do they appear longer than usual? If so, this means the gums have shrunk away from the tooth. This recession is sometimes caused by the bacteria that has accumulated underneath the gum line in an area not visible to the naked eye. That bacteria is eating away at the gum tissue, causing the gums to recede from the tooth, and giving it the deceiving appearance of greater length. Recession can occur in a non-inflammatory situation when there is no keratinized gum, prominent root, and no bone on the cheek side of the root.

Second, check to see if your gums are red, inflamed, puffy, and/or tender. These are symptoms of irritated gums caused by bacteria busily at work damaging the gum tissue. Healthy gums are firm, light pink, and elastic. Gums near the beginning of periodontal disease appear darker and inflamed in the “C” shape surrounding the tooth, while those in the more advanced stages have a greater overall appearance of inflammation and redness.

Third, notice whether your gums bleed and feel tender when you floss and brush. If flossing causes blood to flow from the area where the floss has cleaned between each tooth, this could indicate gum inflammation, which eventually leads to gum recession. Recession is especially likely to be present if the gums bleed when brushing and flossing despite attentive care, gentleness, and regularity.

Fourth, assess your teeth’s sensitivity to hot and cold food and drink. When gums recede, the tooth roots become increasingly exposed. The tooth root, unlike the top portion of the tooth, is not covered in protective enamel. Instead, its only covering is a thin layer called cementum, which does not as effectively protect the nerves in the tooth root from painful exposure. Therefore, heightened oral sensitivity to hot and cold likely means that the gums have pulled away, leaving the roots exposed.

Lastly, assess if your teeth feel loose or mobile. When gums recede, the teeth lose the surrounding support that formerly kept them secure and immobile. Mobile teeth are a sure sign of recession.

Upon noticing any of these symptoms, seek the advice of a periodontist. If you have periodontal disease, he or she will be able to create a personally tailored, effective treatment plan to fight it and your gum recession.

Dr. Macon Singletary

DDS with North Raleigh Periodontics, located at 7805 Fiesta Way in Raleigh. Dr. Singletary is a diplomate with the American Board of Periodontology and has been improving smiles in the Raleigh area for over 25 years.