Gum Recession: The Causes, Symptoms, And Treatments

By Dr. Jack Gruber, DDS

“Some types of tissue on the body regenerate, like your skin’s epithelial tissue, but gum tissue does not. Unfortunately, this means that receding gums don’t grow back and there is currently no known way to reverse the process”. 

Dr. Jack Gruber, DDS

What is gum recession?

Dental health is a major concern for many people, and while you may know the steps to treating common issues, such as cavities, something like gum recession can be unknown and frightening. We can define receding gums as gums that have pulled away from the tooth. This recession exposes the root of the tooth and creates minuscule spaces where plaque can collect. The plaque collection can, in turn, lead to more gum deterioration and eventually bone and tooth loss.

Some types of tissue on the body regenerate, like your skin’s epithelial tissue, but gum tissue does not. Unfortunately, this means that receding gums don’t grow back and there is currently no known way to reverse the process.

While you may not be able to have the gums that you once did after gum recession starts, there are plenty of ways to treat it and prevent your gums from receding further. By knowing the symptoms and signs of gum recession, you can start treatment early and get on the road to healthy gums.

Symptoms Of Gum Recession

The first sign of gum recession is that there is noticeably less gum tissue around the teeth. As the name implies, gum recession will cause your gums to disappear and more of your tooth surface to show. Other symptoms of gum disease include the following –

  • Bad breath
  • Red and swollen gums
  • A bad taste in your mouth
  • Pain when you chew
  • Gum sensitivity

Causes of gum recession

Although it is impossible to completely reverse receding gums, knowing the causes and putting a stop to them is a crucial step to preventing your gums from receding further.

Aggressive brushing technique

Brushing your teeth too aggressively can be just as harmful to your dental health as not brushing them enough. The first thing to change about your technique is the brush you’re using. Toothbrushes with hard bristles put high stress on your gums and can cause them to recede. Use soft-bristled toothbrushes or brushes made of ultra-soft rubber bristles to keep your teeth clean while preventing further damage to your gums. Be sure to brush gently and let the bristles do the work.

Teeth grinding

If you tend to grind your teeth as you sleep, you have an increased risk of gum recession. The grinding and clenching action puts excessive force on your teeth. The parts of the human mouth are very in tune with one another, so as you stress your teeth, your gums will react and begin to recede.

Misaligned teeth

When any of your teeth are abnormally positioned, it may force your gum tissue out of place. Abnormal positioning can include prominent tooth roots, teeth not in alignment with one another, or misaligned attachment muscles.

Poor oral hygiene

Neglecting your oral hygiene can lead to many different health issues. Periodontitis is a severe gum infection that is caused by bacteria that accumulate on your teeth and gums when you don’t brush, floss or clean your teeth. Gum recession is a common result of periodontitis.

 Smoking

You may know that smoking can change the appearance of your teeth, but it can also cause your gums to recede. Whether you smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco, or dip with a pouch of tobacco, you are putting yourself at risk for gum recession and worsening the problem if you already suffer from it.

Injuries to the mouth

As with teeth grinding, any injury that has caused trauma to your mouth can lead to gum recession. Sports injuries are a common cause of receding gums as they can have a severe impact on the head. Even seemingly small things, like body piercing studs on the lip or tongue, can cause prolonged trauma as they rub against the gum tissue and cause a recession.

Even if you brush your teeth with the right brush, have perfectly aligned teeth, and have never experienced trauma to the mouth, you can still experience receding gums because of age or genetics. As you get older, your gums grow weaker and become more susceptible to receding. In the case of genetics, you may have inherited the characteristic of gum recession from your parents as you inherit eye color or shoe size.

Treatment Options For Gum Recession

Typically, the treatment for gum recession depends on the exact cause of it and how far it has progressed. For instance, if you’ve caught your receding gums early and your dentist points to aggressive brushing as the cause of it, you can work on a plan for new brushing behaviors. Your dentist may recommend using a daily mouth rinse to fight plaque between teeth or dental picks to reach the tricky corners of your mouth.

Another treatment option is to get deep cleaning treatments from your dentist, known as scaling and root planing. During this cleaning, the dentist cleans tartar and plaque from the surface and roots of your teeth. This procedure is especially helpful for those with receding gums who have just started to develop bacteria in the pockets gum recession forms and for those with periodontitis.

For severe gum recession, a procedure called gum grafting can restore lost gum tissue. During gum grafting, a periodontist will take gum tissue from another area of the mouth and graft it, or attach it, to the area with lost gum tissue. As the newly grafted area heals, it protects any exposed roots and gives your gums a more natural look.

While there are ways to treat gum recession, the best strategy is to keep it from starting at all. You can do this by first maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating a balanced diet and not smoking. The second step to the strategy is practicing excellent dental care. By regularly visiting the dentist and effectively brushing and flossing your teeth, you’ll have the best dental health you possibly can.

Dr. Jack Gruber, DDS is an acclaimed periodontist with a distinguished career in periodontal medicine that has stretched over 40 years. Dr. Gruber has treated thousands of patients as a practicing periodontist and has become a leading authority on gum disease and gum recession. By combining years of practice and research, Dr. Gruber has also pioneered the revolutionary PeriClean toothbrush for the prevention and treatment of gum recession.

Dr. Jack Gruber, DDS