Receding Gums: What Is It and How to Stop It?


Have your teeth become more sensitive lately? Or do they look uneven with one tooth looking a bit longer than usual? If you nodded yes then chances are that you are struggling with receding gums. Although it is a common dental issue, it is definitely not something to ignore. However, because gum recession is a gradual process, most people fail to notice it until the damage becomes severe. So, let’s learn what exactly happens in gum recession.

What are receding gums?

Each tooth is surrounded by gum tissue that protects it. Gum recession is a process in which this gum tissue starts to pull back, wear away, and begin to expose the tooth, or even its root. When the gums recede, gaps can easily form between the gum line and the teeth, leaving them vulnerable to disease-causing bacteria to accumulate and cause damage. If neglected or untreated, the bone structures and the supporting tissues of the teeth can become irrevocably damaged and lead to loss of the teeth.

Signs of receding gums

The first sign you need to look out for is tooth sensitivity. It can flare up especially when you eat or drink something hot, cold, or spicy. It is common to feel a notch near the gum line when gum recession starts to occur. But to put forward a strong fight against gum recession, it’s important that you understand what causes it in the first place.

What causes the gums to recede?

There are many factors that can cause the gums to pull back. Typically, these are the common causes for gum recession:

  • Periodontal diseases: The main cause of gum recession is a gum disease. Periodontal diseases are gum infections caused by bacteria that destroy supporting gum and gum tissue that hold the teeth in place.

  • Hormonal changes: Did you know that hormones can actually affect your teeth and gums? Yes, that’s true - especially for women. Females go through many hormonal changes throughout their lifetime, starting from puberty to pregnancy and then menopause - this can actually cause the gums to become more sensitive and recede.

  • Genetics: One cannot deny the influence of genes when it comes to health, and this includes the teeth. Studies have shown that as many as 30% of the population have a genetic predisposition to gum diseases, despite taking good care of their teeth.

  • Poor dental care: However, not everything can be attributed to heredity and genes. For the rest of the population, gum recession can occur due to the lack of a good oral care routine. Insufficient brushing and flossing can leave the teeth more susceptible to a host of oral conditions, including receding gums. Commonly, tartar buildup due to inadequate oral care can lead to gum recession in the long run.

  • Aggressive brushing: Too much of anything can also be bad and there could not have been a better example than this. Brushing is super important for your teeth but brushing too hard can cause gum damage. If you are brushing too hard consistently then it can cause the enamel to wearing. The result? Gum recession!

  • Other causes: Other reasons include crooked teeth, grinding the teeth, using tobacco products, lip or tongue piercings that can irritate the gums, and so on.

How to treat gum recession?

If it is mild, then it can be easily treated by a dentist with the help of tooth scaling and root planing the affected area, also known as deep cleaning. Antibiotics can then be given to remove any harmful bacteria. However, if your gum recession is severe and cannot be treated with deep cleaning, then you may require a gum surgery. Typically, these surgical procedures are used to treat gum recession:

  • Open flap scaling and root planing: In this surgical procedure, the periodontist folds back the impacted gum tissue, removes the harmful bacteria from the gaps or pockets, then secures the gum tissue in place above the root of the tooth.

  • Soft tissue graft: One of the common procedures is connective tissue graft. In this method, a flap of the skin is cut at the palate, and a tissue from under the flap is removed and stitched to the gum tissue, which surrounds the exposed root. Then the flap is stitched back again. In another procedure called the free gingival graft, the tissue is directly taken from the palate instead of under the skin.

  • Regeneration: This is used if the supporting bone has been destroyed. In this procedure, the dentist folds back gum tissue, removes the bacteria, and then applies a regenerative material such as graft tissue, tissue-stimulating protein, or membrane to help your body naturally regenerate the tissue and bone in that area. Then the gum tissue is secured over the root of the tooth.

If your gums are receding, your dentist can help determine the best course of action, depending on the severity of the issue. So, take good care of your teeth, monitor any changes you might notice, and consult with your dentist regularly. It is also important to have a good oral care routine to prevent conditions such as gum recession - but make sure you are not brushing gums too hard. It is also crucial to use advanced dental products such as the Oral-B electric toothbrushes that have pressure sensors to prevent hard brushing and to avoid bacteria buildup and make sure you always have that beautiful, healthy smile.

Read more about what causes and how to prevent gum diseases