Gingival or gum recession occurs when the gum line becomes lower than the edge of the tooth enamel. This exposes the root surface of the tooth.
Our teeth are made up of different types of organic materials: Enamel, Dentin, Pulp, and Cementum. The enamel covers the crown of the tooth. It is also the white outer layer that you see when you look at your teeth in the mirror. The enamel is the least porous of the materials that make up our teeth. This is because it is designed to be exposed to the oral cavity.
Cementum covers the root of the tooth. Cementum is made to be covered by gum and bone. It is also designed for gum and bone attachment. Cementum or root surface becomes exposed when the gums recede. Unfortunately, exposure of Cementum from gum recession causes discomfort and leads to problems.
Cementum is softer and more porous than Enamel, as it is not designed to be exposed inside the mouth. Root surface exposure leads to sensitivity from hot and cold sensations, more easily penetrating this porous material. Cementum is also more prone to breakdown or tooth decay than enamel because of its softer nature. Tooth decay on the root surface of the tooth is a common problem, especially in older patient population.
There are options to fix the exposure of root surface from gum recession. This includes treatment with fluoride varnish to strengthen and mineralize the root surface, desensitizing medications, coverage with bonded dental restorations, and gum grafting.
Gum grafting is rebuilding the gum that was lost over the exposed root surface. This treatment is ideal as it aims to bring the tooth back to its natural state. See upcoming blog entries for more on gum grafting techniques, advancements, and options.