Gum Recession Has Resulted In Root Exposure – What Caused It and What Can I Do About It?

Gingival recession results in root exposure. This undesirable condition is unaesthetic and may lead to sensitivity, root decay and tooth loss. 

There are many causes of gum recession which results in exposed tooth roots including gum disease, aggressive tooth brushing and misaligned teeth. 

Sadly gum recession is permanent as gum tissue doesn’t regrow. The good news is that dental treatments are available to cover exposed roots and prevent it developing or worsening. 

This post aims to explain the causes and symptoms of an exposed tooth root, as well as various treatments and signs that a trip to a dentist is necessary.

gum recession root exposure

What Are Tooth Roots?

A tooth consists of two parts, the tooth root and the crown. The crown is the part that you can see which lays above the gum. The root lays below the gum line and embedded in the jaw bone (also called alveolar bone).  The root is usually twice as long as the crown – this ensures the tooth is held securely in place.

The number of roots for each type of tooth varies.  The front teeth (incisors and canines) generally have one root per tooth and the molars have two (lower molars) or three (upper molars) roots.

What Are Tooth Roots Made Of?

Several layers make up the tooth root. Dentin, cementum and dental pulp. 

  • Cementum – The outer layer is called the cementum. If exposed the cementum can be quickly worn away with brushing or become decayed. 
  • Pulp Chamber – this is the central part of the tooth and contains tooth nerves and blood vessels. 
  • Dentin – this substance lies between the cementum and the pulp chamber. It’s very soft and when exposed decays very quickly. Microscopic channels (called dentinal tubules) lead into the pulp chamber. They allow hot, cold, acidic or sticky foods to stimulate the nerves inside the roots causing sensitivity. 

How Are The Tooth Nerves Exposed? 

Ultimately gum recession results in root and nerve exposure.  

The tooth root is usually surrounded by cementum and embedded within the bone and gum. When bone loss and gum recession expose the cementum protecting the inner layers of the tooth it becomes decayed and worn. The nerve is essentially exposed as the nerve can be stimulated via the dentinal tubules.

Exposed vs. Unexposed Roots

When gums are healthy, only the crown is exposed. There’s no difference in the thickness or shape of the gums – the tissue appears even across all teeth. 

When tooth roots are exposed some teeth may look like they have less gum tissue than others. You may feel a small ridge above the gumline. This is where the enamel of the crown and the cementum of the root meet (this is usually covered up). 

The teeth may look thinner near the gums and there may be gaps or black triangles between the teeth. On the back teeth, you may be able to see two or three prong-like projections. 

If the disease has caused your exposed roots your gums may also be red and puffy. 

This would be a good place for an image. – This image shows gum recession, causing exposed root surface. 

Symptoms of an Exposed Tooth Root

Gum recession leads to exposed tooth roots and exposed nerves. This can be accompanied by many symptoms including pain and sensitivity. Symptoms do vary between people as it can depend on the cause and how advanced the gum recession is. 

Symptoms include the following. 

  • Loose, wobbly, rotated teeth
  • Sore, sensitive gums – when brushing or when you eat hot, cold, sweet or sour foods
  • Longer looking teeth
  • Changes to the shape of the gums or teeth
  • Teeth that look yellow near the gums – cementum and dentin are a more yellow color when compared to the gray white of the enamel on the crown.

If you have gum disease you may also experience

  • Bleeding gums
  • Red, inflamed and swollen gums
  • Bad Breath

Will Dentists Notice Gum Recession Root Exposure?

Yes, a dentist or hygienist will spot gum recession straight away.  They will investigate the cause and give advice on how to stop it from progressing and exposing the tooth root. 

What Causes Exposed Tooth Roots?

Disease or excessive abrasion can cause the edge of the gum tissue to recede and tooth root exposure. 

Exposed tooth roots are often a sign of gum disease. Gum disease or periodontal disease as it is also referred to, is triggered by a build-up of plaque bacteria.  It causes the loss of periodontal tissues, including periodontal ligament, root cementum, and bone which hold the teeth in place and support the gum tissue.

Other causes include

  • Aggressive tooth brushing
  • Oral piercings (tongue, lip, frenulum, smiley)
  • Tooth grinding (bruxism)
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Genetics
  • Smoking 
  • Hormonal changes – puberty, pregnancy, menopause
  • Natural loss of bone in the jaw after the age of 40/50 (men and women)
  • Injury 
  • Poor oral health
  • Poor diet – one that is high in sugar & fat, low in micronutrients
  • Periodontal disease
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At What Age Does Gum Recession Root Exposure Start?

The onset of gum recession is not age dependent but becomes more likely to occur the older you get due to the time you’ve been exposed to risk factors.  

Research has found that  at least 40% of young adults and up to 88% of older adults have at least one site of gum recession (1)

How Long Does Gum Recession Take To Occur

Gum recession happens slowly over time – it can take years. Often you do not realize it’s happening until the tooth roots are exposed and you’re experiencing the symptoms of gum recession.

What Happens To Untreated Exposed Tooth Roots? 

When left untreated an exposed tooth root will lead to additional oral health complications. Pain and sensitivity may develop or become much worse than it already is. 

Complications include

  • Pain and sensitivity may develop or worsen
  • Gum inflammation and possibly periodontal disease 
  • Tooth root decay (caries)
  • Aesthetic or functional deficiencies
  • Impaired oral hygiene which can lead to periodontal disease and tooth loss

Can An Exposed Tooth Root Be Treated At Home? 

No, an exposed tooth root cannot be treated at home if you’re looking to replace the gum over the exposed root and you must seek appropriate care from an expert dentist.  An exposed root will not get better without appropriate treatment. 

However, if the gum recession and root exposure is causing tooth sensitivity then a desensitising toothpaste will go a long way to calming the sensitivity down until you can get treated by your dentist or periodontist.

When To See A Dentist About Gum Recession Root Exposure

If you think you have an exposed tooth root make an appointment at the dental clinic. An expert dentist can identify the cause, advise you on the treatment options available and prevent it from getting any worse.

Treatments for an Exposed Tooth Root 

It’s quite common for people to ask how they can fix gum recession and root exposure. 

Whilst, any lost gum tissue will not grow back naturally steps can be taken to prevent it progressing (see below).

If gum disease is the cause of your exposed tooth roots this must be treated and under control before any treatments for exposed tooth roots are carried out. If you have gum disease you can find out how you can treat this at home here. 

Treatment aims to improve aesthetics, eliminate sensitivity and decrease the risk of root decay.

Gum Grafts   

Gum grafts are available if your tooth root exposure is advanced. This procedure involves a dental surgeon transplanting tissue from the palate to the gums.  Alternatives to using transplanted tissues are becoming available that involve using special proteins and collagen matrices to support your body in generating gum tissue. 

Non-Surgical Treatments 

If you have mild gum recession or do not wish to have surgical treatment you may find the below treatments helpful in reducing pain and preventing the condition from worsening.

  • Use a Gum Pocket Brush to reach harmful bacteria that cannot be removed with a normal toothbrush.
  • Use a soft or ultra-soft brush as these are less damaging to the soft tissues than a hard brush. Investing in an electric toothbrush with a force detector that automatically reduces the pressure applied to the gums may help prevent further loss of tissue
  • Use a desensitizing toothpaste that prevents the nerves stimulatation
  • High fluoride treatments
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How To Prevent Tooth Roots Becoming Exposed

Developing oral hygiene which is first class is the key to preventing periodontal diseases and subsequent gum recession and root exposure. 

It’s also important that you use the correct technique when cleaning your teeth so that you effectively disrupt the bacterial plaque but don’t damage the gum by pressing on too hard and wearing the tissue away.   

  • Remove oral piercings 
  • Use a gum shield when participating in contact sports to avoid gum trauma 
  • Stop smoking
  • Control blood sugars
  • Eat a nutrient rich diet
  • Take steps to prevent a loss in bone density
  • Obtain a mouth guard if you grind your teeth at night
  • Seek dental assistance if you have misaligned teeth

Summary of Gum Recession Root Exposure

Gum recession resulting in root exposure is painful, unattractive and puts you at risk of tooth decay and tooth loss. It’s often associated with gum disease, caused by a build-up of plaque bacteria, resulting in the loss of tissues which support the gum tissue. Other causes include injury as well as wear and tear from aggressive tooth brushing and oral piercings. Environmental factors such as smoking can exacerbate gum recession from other causes. 

Gum grafting and non-surgical treatments are available to treat gum recession and exposed roots. 

Good oral hygiene using techniques that disrupt plaque without damaging the delicate tissue can prevent gum recession and root exposure from developing or worsening.

Beat Gum Disease Now

Sources in this article about Gum Recession Root Exposure

  1. Chan HL, Chun YH, MacEachern M, Oates TW. Does Gingival Recession Require Surgical Treatment? Dent Clin North Am. 2015 Oct;59(4):981-96. doi: 10.1016/j.cden.2015.06.010. Epub 2015 Aug 8. PMID: 26427577; PMCID: PMC4907322. Available here:
  2. Treatment of gingival recession: when and how? Jean-Claude Imber,Adrian Kasaj. First published: 24 September 2020. Available here
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Written by Gareth Edwards

Co-Founder & GDG Dentist

Dr. Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons) MFDS (RCPS Glasgow) is GDG Co-Founder and Gum Disease Expert.

He is a practicing dentist based in Bournemouth, UK and has treated thousands of patients with gum-related diseases.

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