Gum recession is the loss of gum tissue from the base of a tooth with exposure of the root surface.
Recession usually occurs in response to overaggressive brushing but can also result from injury or the natural aging process in thin, delicate gum tissue. Most people have some slight recession.
Recession may make the teeth very sensitive to cold, to sweet foods, or to touch. It may be accompanied by bone loss and may make the teeth more vulnerable to root cavities.
Treatment is needed when the gums or teeth are sensitive or when plaque accumulates and is difficult to remove. For people with mild recession, dentists may apply a substance that makes the gums less sensitive. They advise people to use a desensitizing toothpaste or other gentle toothpaste that does not contain the harsh abrasives present in common tartar control or whitening toothpastes. People are also instructed to use a soft bristle toothbrush and a special brushing technique that helps clean the teeth at the gum line. The technique involves gently moving the bristles back and forth at a 45-degree angle to the teeth. Such measures keep the recession from worsening but do not cure it. For people with more severe recession, treatment involves a grafting procedure, in which soft tissue is removed from the roof of the mouth or from donor tissues and stitched to the area.
Last full review/revision July 2012 by James T. Ubertalli, DMD