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Updated on January 6, 2023
6 min read

Gum Recession: Overview, Causes & Treatment

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What is Gum Recession?

Receding gums are gums that pull away from the underlying teeth. You may also hear the terms gum recession or gingival recession.

If you have receding gums, you’ll be able to see more of your teeth, making them appear longer. In severe cases, the roots of your teeth can become exposed. This can result in sensitivity and a higher risk of tooth decay.

Gum recession can signify advancing gum disease, but many other causes are possible. Depending on the underlying cause, your gums may recede on one tooth, a few teeth, or all of your teeth.

What Causes Receding Gums?

Gum recession illustration scaled

Gum recession can have a variety of causes and risk factors. Some, such as gum disease, may require professional treatment. Other risk factors include habits such as smoking, aggressive brushing, and bruxism.

Periodontal Disease (Advanced Gum Disease)

Gum recession can be a sign of periodontal disease, also known as advanced gum disease. This serious condition can lead to permanent loss of teeth and bone tissue.

Receding gums form spaces known as periodontal pockets. Plaque and bacteria can build up in these pockets, causing further inflammation and tissue damage.

See your dentist as soon as possible if you have receding gums, tartar buildup, or other signs of gum disease.

Trauma

Improper brushing is a common cause of mild gum trauma, which can cause gum recession over time. Try to avoid brushing your teeth too hard or with a hard-bristled brush.

An injury from an accident or a fight can also cause gum recession in the affected area.

Dentures

If you have partial dentures that don’t fit properly, you may begin to suffer from chronic gum inflammation. Your gums may recede as a result.

Partial dentures are attached to a metal plate that is secured in the mouth using clasps and hooks that attach to your real teeth.

removable partial denture NewMouth

These hooks and clasps can irritate the gums, leading to inflammation and gum recession.

If your gums are receding due to poorly fitted partial dentures, your dentist can adjust or remake them.

Genetics

Some people are born with thin, weak, or delicate gums. If this is the case for you, you may be more prone to gum recession, gum disease, and other soft tissue infections.

It’s also possible for you to have receding gums on just one or a few teeth. This can be caused by an especially tight piece of connective tissue between the gums and lips, also known as a frenum.

Tobacco Products & Nicotine

Receding gums can be an adverse effect of tobacco use. Tobacco products can contribute to dry mouth and lower oxygen levels in the bloodstream. This puts smokers (and users of chewing or dipping tobacco) at a greater risk of gum disease.

Bulimia

Bulimia is an eating disorder that can severely impact your general and oral health.

This disorder is defined by repetitive self-induced vomiting. This can cause your tooth enamel to erode and their gums to recede. Tooth stains, dental abscesses, and tooth loss can also occur.

Bruxism

Bruxism is the habit of clenching and grinding the teeth, often during sleep. Over time, this condition can loosen your teeth and cause gum recession. Special mouthguards can be made to help prevent bruxism-related damage. Note: It’s important to determine what is causing the bruxism so you can treat the root cause.

bruxism

Symptoms of Receding Gums

Gum recession is a common dental problem, especially in adults.

However, because it occurs slowly over time, you may be unaware that your gums are receding. Some signs to look out for include:

  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Teeth that appear longer than normal (exposed tooth roots)
  • A visible gap between the gumline and teeth
  • Loose teeth

Gum recession can appear in early or mild gum disease (gingivitis) and moderate to advanced gum disease (periodontitis).

Accompanying symptoms of gum disease may include:

  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding gums when brushing or flossing
  • Dark red gums
  • Swollen or puffy gums

How to Fix Receding Gums

If you notice signs that your gums are pulling away from your teeth, see your dentist as soon as possible. The longer gum recession goes untreated, the more extensive the treatment you’ll need.

Good oral hygiene and a healthy lifestyle can prevent gum disease. But once your gums have begun to recede, you’ll need to see a professional for adequate treatment.

Depending on the cause, gum recession treatment may include:

Scaling and Root Planing

Scaling and root planing is the most common treatment for periodontal disease. It’s a deep dental cleaning that removes dental calculus (tartar) and helps prevent it from returning.

Scaling refers to the removal of tartar above and below the gum line. Root planing is the smoothing of your tooth roots, which can make it harder for tartar buildup to recur.

This procedure requires patience, skill, and care from dental professionals. It’s sometimes divided into multiple sessions, one for each quadrant of the mouth.

Full Mouth Ultrasonic Debridement

In addition to scaling and root planing, a full mouth debridement may be performed with an ultrasonic scaler during the initial treatment phase. This is more or less equivalent to scaling without root planing.

Gum Tissue Grafts (Gum Recession Surgery)

If you have advanced gum recession, gum grafts may be necessary to restore damaged tissue. This involves taking a piece of gum tissue from another place in your mouth and reattaching it to the affected area.

With this newly added gum tissue in place, you’ll no longer have sensitivity from root exposure. The roots of your teeth will be protected.

Frenectomy

Sometimes gum recession is caused by an especially tight piece of connective tissue. In these cases, the condition is limited to one or a few teeth and isn’t related to gum disease.

This band of connective tissue, called a frenum or frenulum, can be cut to relieve the tension in your gums. As the tissue heals, it will be longer and not as tight.This procedure is called a frenectomy and is also used to treat lip ties in children.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I prevent gum recession?

The surest way to prevent gum recession is to prevent gum disease. Keep your gums healthy by maintaining good oral hygiene, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding tobacco.

How can I fix receding gums naturally?

Gum tissue that has already been lost cannot grow back naturally. However, there are steps you can take at home to prevent your gum recession from getting worse.

Brush your teeth twice daily, floss regularly, and use an antimicrobial mouthwash. Avoid brushing too hard, and consider getting a soft-bristled or electric toothbrush.

Quitting tobacco and getting treatment for bruxism can also help alleviate gum recession.

Can receding gums grow back?

No, gum recession cannot be reversed. Your gum tissue does not regenerate like other tissues in your body. Only gum grafts can restore gum tissue.

How much does it cost to fix receding gums?

Gum graft surgery can cost anywhere from $500 to $10,000. This is a wide price range that can be affected by various factors.

The amount of work needed, your location, and what your insurance will cover all play a role in determining the cost.

What happens if you don't fix receding gums?

If gum recession is left untreated, it will continue to get worse.

Gums protect the roots of your teeth by giving them stability and support. Over time, receded gums will cause increased tooth sensitivity, loose teeth, and more frequent root cavities. 

Untreated gum recession will damage the supporting structures of your teeth, leading to tooth and bone loss.

Last updated on January 6, 2023
7 Sources Cited
Last updated on January 6, 2023
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Mythri, Sarpangala, et al. “Etiology and occurrence of gingival recession - An epidemiological study.” Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology, 2015.
  2. Jati, Ana Suzy, et al. “Gingival recession: its causes and types, and the importance of orthodontic treatment.” Dental Press Journal of Orthodontics, 2016.
  3. Lafzi, Ardeshir, et al. “Assessment of the etiologic factors of gingival recession in a group of patients in northwest Iran.” Journal of Dental Research, Dental Clinics, Dental Prospects, 2009.
  4. Sæthre, Terje, et al. "Complication following frenectomy: A case report." Clinical Case Reports, 2021.
  5. Imber, Jean-Claude, and Adrian Kasaj. "Treatment of Gingival Recession: When and How?" International Dental Journal, 2021.
  6. Pradeep, Koppolu, et al. "Gingival Recession: Review and Strategies in Treatment of Recession." Case Reports in Dentistry, 2012.
  7. Wennström, Jan L, et al. “Full-mouth ultrasonic debridement versus quadrant scaling and root planing as an initial approach in the treatment of chronic periodontitis.” Journal of clinical periodontology, 2005.
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