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Receding Gums: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

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Receding gums are usually a sign of gum disease (including gingivitis and periodontitis) and are typically not reversible. In extreme cases, you’ll need gum graft surgery to restore your receded gums.

Over 50% of American adults experience some level of receding gums. Although poor oral hygiene is the most common cause of gum recession, other causes include hormone changes and injuries to your teeth or gums.

Schedule an appointment with Rejuvenation Dentistry if you’re experiencing gum health problems and want a more functional approach to periodontitis treatment. Unlike conventional dentists, we employ minimally-invasive procedures that preserve as much natural tooth as possible.

Symptoms of Receding Gums

These are the most common symptoms that accompany receding gums:

  • Swollen red gums
  • Sensitive gums
  • Bleeding gums, especially after brushing or flossing
  • Longer tooth appearance, ability to see higher on your tooth
  • Sensitivity to cold and hot foods
  • Loose teeth
  • Bad breath (halitosis)

Receding gums are most typically a symptom of early or advanced gum disease. Untreated gum disease can lead to serious whole-body health issues, such as tooth loss, heart disease, and lung infection.

Can my teeth fall out if I have receding gums? Yes, if you have receding gums, there might eventually not be enough gum tissue to hold your tooth. One or more teeth can fall out if your gums recede too far.

Causes & Risk Factors

Why do gums recede? Gums recede because of bacteria buildup around your gums or because of injury to your gums. Here are all the causes and risk factors for receding gums:

  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Brushing your teeth too hard
  • Dental plaque buildup
  • Tartar buildup
  • Gingivitis, periodontitis, or periodontal disease (all similar terms)
  • Dental misalignment
  • Injury to your gums, including from hard or sharp food
  • Lip or tongue piercings
  • Use of tobacco products
  • Aging
  • Family history of gum disease
  • Hormonal changes
  • Diabetes
  • HIV/AIDS

Can receding gums grow back?

Receding gums can’t grow back. Once it’s gone, your gum tissue is gone for good. However, some treatments may stop or slow further gum recession.

Your periodontist needs to diagnose whether you actually have receding gums, discuss treatment options like gum grafting with you, and identify if bone grafting is necessary due to substantial bone loss.

How Gum Recession Is Diagnosed

Your normal dentist can diagnose gum recession during your twice-yearly checkup. The dentist will calculate gingival recession for each tooth using a periodontal probe — a small painless ruler that measures gingival pocket depth.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research states that a normal gingival pocket ranges from 1 to 3 millimeters. Deeper than 1-3 mm means you have gum disease.

Simply improving your oral care routine may solve the issue if you have mild gum recession. But if the root of the tooth is exposed, you’ve got a serious dental problem. Exposed roots may lead to tooth sensitivity, tooth loss, and the spread of infection throughout the body,

Bone loss is common near receding gums, so your dentist may order x-rays or further diagnostic tests.

If you’ve got a severe enough case of gum disease, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist for more specialized treatment.

How to Stop Receding Gums (Treatments)

Can a receding gum be fixed? Receding gums can be stopped but not reversed. In most cases, only surgery can restore your gum tissue.

Gum grafting surgery is traditionally the only treatment that can actually restore your gums by taking existing soft tissue in your mouth and grafting it to your tooth roots.

Other gum-healing treatment options can slow or stop the progression of receding gums:

Surgery for Gum Recession

If receding gums are impacting your health or appearance, you and your healthcare provider can discuss the benefits of an oral surgery called “free gingival graft” or “gum grafting.” Gum surgery might sound scary, but it is safe and painless when your gums are adequately numbed.

Gum grafting surgery is a tremendous long-term treatment for receding gums to avoid the damaging effects of gum recession. This surgery can also improve the appearance of your smile by restoring your natural gum line.

Your dentist or doctor can refer you to a periodontist (gum specialist) who can perform the gum tissue graft. During this surgery, a periodontist removes some tissue from the roof of your mouth or nearby healthy gum tissue. The removed tissue is attached to where your gums have receded.

This procedure is simple, safe, common, quick (under an hour), and outpatient (you can leave after the procedure).

What happens if you don’t treat receding gums?

If you leave receding gums untreated, it can lead to the following health complications:

    • Tooth loss
    • Tooth mobility
    • Bleeding gums
    • Gingivitis, periodontitis, or advanced gum disease
    • Pain while chewing
    • Damage to the surrounding bone
    • Systemic inflammation
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of heart attack

Prevention

The best way to prevent receding gums is through good oral hygiene and regular checkups with your dentist.

Here are a few practical ways to improve your oral hygiene and help prevent gum recession:

  • Brush your teeth twice daily with an electric toothbrush, using gentle circles aimed diagonally toward your gums. Do not brush your teeth too hard, as this can lead to gum bleeding and bacterial infections in your gums. Only use soft-bristled toothbrushes, especially if you have sensitive teeth or gums.
  • Use a gum-friendly toothpaste formulated to fight gingivitis and receding gums. (I designed Revitin toothpaste for exactly this purpose!)
  • Floss once a day to remove plaque in between your teeth. Do not irritate your gums by forcing the floss against your gums. Interdental brushes are a good alternative to flossing.
  • Switch to a natural mouthwash that can fight harmful bacteria in your mouth and under your gums. Do not use alcohol-based mouthwashes that can dry out your mouth and kill beneficial bacteria.
  • Limit sugar intake. Harmful bacteria feed on sugary foods and beverages.
  • Visit your dentist twice a year. Checkups are essential for dental cleanings and tooth decay prevention.

Is it safe to chew gum with receding gums? It is generally safe to chew gum with receding gums. However, sugary gum can promote harmful bacteria growth in your mouth. Chewing gum may release mercury from any amalgam fillings in your teeth. Xylitol gum has been shown to benefit your oral health.

The Mouth-Body Connection

Your overall health affects your oral health, and your oral health affects your overall health. Untreated gum recession can lead to systemic issues, especially with your cardiovascular system.

Practice good oral hygiene, avoid smoking, and don’t brush your teeth too hard to prevent receding gums and the health complications that may follow.

Check out my comprehensive book on oral health and systemic issues for more info and actionable advice: The Mouth-Body Connection.

If you want a biological dentist’s unique perspective on receding gums, schedule an appointment with Rejuvenation Dentistry in NYC. Our cutting-edge wellness technology and non-invasive treatments lead to science-backed holistic results.

Sources

  1. Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health. (2016). Dental Scaling and Root Planing for Periodontal Health: A Review of the Clinical Effectiveness, Cost-Effectiveness, and Guidelines. Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health: Ottawa, ON, Canada. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK401538/
  2. Woelber, J. P., Bremer, K., Vach, K., König, D., Hellwig, E., Ratka-Krüger, P., … & Tennert, C. (2017). An oral health optimized diet can reduce gingival and periodontal inflammation in humans-a randomized controlled pilot study. BMC oral health, 17(1), 1-8. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4962497/
  3. Nagata, H., Inagaki, Y., Tanaka, M., Ojima, M., Kataoka, K., Kuboniwa, M., … & Shizukuishi, S. (2008). Effect of eucalyptus extract chewing gum on periodontal health: a double‐masked, randomized trial. Journal of periodontology, 79(8), 1378-1385. Full text: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Hideki-Nagata-2/publication/298092359_Effect_of_eucalyptus_extract_chewing_gum_on_periodontal_health_A_double-masked_randomized_trial_Journal_of_Periodontology_2008_79_1378-1385/links/573f074408aea45ee844f185/Effect-of-eucalyptus-extract-chewing-gum-on-periodontal-health-A-double-masked-randomized-trial-Journal-of-Periodontology-2008-79-1378-1385.pdf
  4. Chatterjee, A., Saluja, M., Agarwal, G., & Alam, M. (2012). Green tea: A boon for periodontal and general health. Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology, 16(2), 161. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3459493/
  5. Rapone, B., Ferrara, E., Santacroce, L., Topi, S., Gnoni, A., Dipalma, G., … & Inchingolo, F. (2022). The Gaseous Ozone Therapy as a Promising Antiseptic Adjuvant of Periodontal Treatment: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(2), 985. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8775443/
  6. Kapoor, A., Malhotra, R., Grover, V., & Grover, D. (2012). Systemic antibiotic therapy in periodontics. Dental research journal, 9(5), 505. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612184/
  7. Goyal, L., Gupta, N. D., Gupta, N., & Chawla, K. (2019). Free gingival graft as a single step procedure for treatment of mandibular Miller class I and II recession defects. World journal of plastic surgery, 8(1), 12. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6409142/
  8. Digel, I., Kern, I., Geenen, E. M., & Akimbekov, N. (2020). Dental plaque removal by ultrasonic toothbrushes. Dentistry journal, 8(1), 28. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7175112/
  9. Janakiram, C., Kumar, C. D., & Joseph, J. (2017). Xylitol in preventing dental caries: A systematic review and meta-analyses. Journal of natural science, biology, and medicine, 8(1), 16. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5320817/

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