Healthy gums fit snugly around the visible part, or the crown, of the teeth. Gum recession occurs when the gums pull away or recede, exposing the roots below. And while receding gums is irreversible, some treatments can restore gum tissue around the teeth.

Receding gums is when the gums pull back from the teeth, exposing each tooth and its roots further. Healthcare professionals refer to it as a gingival recession, a periodontal disease. Other types of periodontal disease include gingivitis and periodontitis.

This article outlines the various treatments for receding gums. We also provide tips on how to slow and stop its progression.

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Several different factors can cause the gums to recede, including:

  • periodontal disease
  • traumatic brushing
  • teeth grinding and clenching
  • aging
  • injury
  • smoking

Periodontal disease

The periodontium is the supporting structure surrounding each tooth that includes:

  • gums
  • alveolar bone
  • ligaments
  • cementum, the hard tissue that allows the periodontal ligament to attach to a tooth

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, refers to the infection and inflammation of the gums and the upper structures in the mouth.

This inflammation occurs due to an accumulation of bacterial deposits called plaque.

Factors that may cause or contribute to periodontal disease include:

There are two stages of periodontal disease. First, gingivitis causes gum redness and swelling — without treatment, there may also be bleeding that may lead to periodontitis. During periodontitis, the later stage of periodontal disease, there are four total stages of severity.

In periodontitis, the gum and connective tissues pull away, and a pocket forms between the tooth and gum that can collect bacteria. Over time, the bacteria cause further inflammation.

If the gums recede too much, it may result in bone loss, which can cause teeth to loosen or fall out.

Forceful or incorrect brushing

Regular brushing is essential for maintaining good oral hygiene. However, using an incorrect brushing technique could contribute to receding gums.

The gingival margin is the part of the gum that comes into contact with the tooth’s crown. Brushing incorrectly or too hard can damage this area, which may trigger gum inflammation and recession.

Brushing factors that can trigger gum recession include:

  • applying too much pressure
  • using a hard- or medium-bristled toothbrush
  • brushing the teeth in a broad, horizontal motion

Teeth grinding and clenching

Some people grind their top and bottom teeth together while sleeping.

The motion of teeth grinding puts intense pressure on the gums, which can cause them to recede over time.

Teeth grinding can also cause teeth to become loose in their sockets. Additionally, grinding creates deep pockets between the tooth and the gum, where bacteria can collect. These bacteria trigger gum inflammation and can make gum recession worse.

Aging

A literature review found that the body’s natural aging process causes receding gums. As the years pass, the alveolar bone and soft tissue experience damage due to repeated exposure to bacteria and other agents.

Injury

Sustaining direct trauma to the gum tissue can cause the gums to recede in that area. Examples of such injuries include the following:

  • during a fall or other accident
  • during dental procedures
  • wearing ill-fitting partial dentures
  • playing contact sports

Smoking

According to the National Institute of Aging, there is a link between smoking and receding gums. For example, the previous literature review also found people who smoke have are twice as likely to have receding gums than nonsmokers.

Can gums grow back?

The gums cannot grow back naturally. However, further recession of the gums is preventable, and surgery can restore some tissue.

The treatment for receding gums depends on the underlying cause, which may or may not require surgery.

Proper dental care

When traumatic brushing practices are the cause, reevaluating proper dental care is the first line of treatment. The care plan may include the following:

  • Changing toothbrushes regularly: An effective treatment is a soft, ultrasoft, or electric toothbrush with a force detector.
  • Trying a different toothpaste: Avoiding abrasive toothpaste can help prevent further gum recession. A person can also consider using a paste for sensitive teeth.
  • Maintaining regular dental cleanings and exams with a dentist: Visiting a dentist at least twice a year for a checkup and cleaning can help treat receding gums.

Scaling and root planing

Scaling and root planing are some of the first treatments for receding gums that a dentist may recommend. These procedures remove plaque and tartar from below the gum line, where regular brushing cannot reach.

Root planing removes plaque and tartar specifically from the roots of teeth. Afterward, a dentist will use special instruments to smooth the roots, which helps the gums reattach to the tooth.

Gum graft surgery

A dentist might consider gum graft surgery (GGS) if a person’s gums have severely receded.

During GGS, a surgeon will take a small piece of gum tissue from elsewhere in the mouth and use it to cover the exposed tooth roots.

GGS helps prevent bone loss and the gums from receding further. It can also protect the previously exposed tooth roots from decay.

Pinhole surgical technique

Pinhole surgical technique (PST) is a new treatment for mild to moderate receding gums.

It is a minimally invasive procedure that involves making a tiny hole in the gum tissue above the exposed tooth root.

A dentist will insert a unique tool into the hole to separate the gum from the tooth. They will then stretch and reposition the gum back over the exposed tooth root.

The tips below can help slow or stop the progression of receding gums:

Practice good oral hygiene

The following oral hygiene tips can help:

  • flossing regularly
  • using a fluoride toothpaste
  • brushing the teeth and gently along the gum line twice per day using a soft-bristled toothbrush
  • using an antiseptic or fluoride mouthwash to reduce bacteria and flush out debris
  • choosing a size and shape of toothbrush that allows access to all parts of the mouth
  • replacing toothbrushes at least every 2–4 months
  • attending regular dental appointments

Use the correct brushing technique

Adopting the correct brushing technique can help prevent the gums from receding.

The American Dental Association provides the following guidelines:

  • Place the toothbrush against the gums at a 45-degree angle.
  • Applying gentle pressure, sweep the toothbrush back and forth using small, tight strokes.
  • Brush the outer and inner surfaces, as well as the chewing surfaces, of the teeth.
  • When cleaning the inner surfaces of the front teeth, hold the toothbrush vertically.
  • Brush the teeth for 2 minutes in total.

People can also ask their dentist for tips on modifying this technique to manage their receded gums.

Wear a mouthguard

A mouthguard, or splint, can help prevent gum recession at night due to teeth grinding. Mouthguards create even pressure across the jaw and act as a physical barrier to separate the top and bottom teeth.

Mouthguards are available from most pharmacies. A dentist can also make a customized mouthguard, which will provide a better fit.

Replace ill-fitting dentures

Partial dentures that were once a good fit can become incompatible with the mouth over time. This can occur for several reasons, including:

  • the bone and gum ridges shrinking over time
  • differences in jaw alignment
  • general wear and tear of the partial dentures

Ill-fitting partial dentures can rub and irritate the gums, causing the gums to recede around healthy teeth. People can prevent this by replacing partial dentures when necessary.

Visit the dentist regularly

Attending regular dental checkups is vital for detecting the early stages of gum recession.

Checkups also enable the dentist to identify and replace any faulty fillings or ill-fitting partial dentures, which can contribute to receding gums.

Once the gums recede, they cannot grow back. However, some treatments can reattach and restore gum tissue around the teeth.

Maintaining good oral hygiene and attending regular dental checkups can help prevent, slow, or stop gum recession.

People should talk with their dentist for tailored advice on preventing and treating receding gums.