Receding Gums: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Stopping receding gums in their tracks is vital if you want to maintain a healthy smile. Not only do receding gums cause tooth sensitivity when eating, drinking, and brushing your teeth, but severe gum recession can lead to bone loss and even tooth loss if it isn't caught and treated in time. While your gums can't grow back, it's often possible to stop mild gum recession in its tracks—or better yet, prevent receding gums in the first place.

Effective Strategies to Stop Gum Recession

The first step to stopping gum recession is to identify the cause. Some common causes of gum recession include:

  • Gum disease

  • Inadequate oral hygiene

  • Over-aggressive brushing

  • Tobacco use

  • Teeth grinding

  • Misaligned bite

  • Lip and tongue piercings

  • Hormonal changes

Some of these factors—like tobacco use or lip piercings—might be immediately obvious. Others, such as a build-up of plaque or gum disease, can easily be identified by your dentist when you go for your routine teeth clean. Once you've identified all of the factors that are contributing to gum recession, you can act to prevent the problem from becoming worse.

Gum Disease

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, affects almost half of Americans aged 30 and above and is a common cause of gum recession. Red or swollen gums can pull away from the teeth, creating pockets where harmful bacteria can lodge and further damage your gums and teeth.

For mild cases of gum disease (we recommend these strategies for prevention as well), try these natural gum-healing remedies:

  • Drink plenty of water to prevent dry mouth.

  • Try oil pulling with sesame or coconut oil on an empty stomach to kill bacteria.

  • Ingest plenty of Omega 3 in the form of whole foods and supplements.

  • Enjoy a balanced diet based on whole foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as foods that are rich in bone-healthy vitamins and minerals.

Severe cases of periodontal disease may require localized or systemic antibiotics or topical medications to prevent further damage—including recession. Consult your dentist for a personalized diagnosis and plan to treat gum disease.

Inadequate Oral Hygiene

Plaque and tartar buildup from an inadequate dental care regimen can also lead to gum recession. As tartar builds up along the gum line, it weakens the enamel and the gum pulls away from the weakened (or decayed) bone.

To prevent or halt gum recession from a buildup of plaque:

  • Maintain a nourishing, bone-healthy diet based on whole foods. It's okay to enjoy the occasional sweet treat, but don't make it a regular habit.

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stimulate saliva production. Some people even swish saliva around their mouth.

  • Brush, floss, and rinse your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash, especially after eating sweets and drinking acidic beverages like coffee or lemon juice. Please note: Brushing immediately after eating and drinking can remove some of the weakened enamel, and isn’t recommended. Instead, rinse out your mouth with water after eating or drinking, swish some saliva, and brush after an hour or so.

  • Make a dental appointment every six months for a professional cleaning and check-up.

Over-Aggressive Brushing

While you need to brush your teeth effectively, brushing them incorrectly or too hard can wear away the gums and cause them to recede. Brushing with a hard-bristled brush or electric toothbrush—while effective for removing plaque—can also be hard on your gums. If possible, use a soft-bristled brush and circular motions rather than brushing from side to side.

Tip: When you go for your regular dental checkup, check your brushing technique and ask your dentist for tips. Not only is correct flossing and brushing more effective at removing plaque and bacteria (which in turn helps to prevent gum disease), but it’s easier on your gums as well.

Tobacco Use

Beyond gum health and oral hygiene, tobacco use can really wreak havoc on your gums. When you chew or smoke tobacco, it leaves a sticky residue on your teeth that is not easily removed and can begin to not only eat away at your gums but also cause them to recede.

The only way to protect your gums in this case is to stop using tobacco. In the meantime, be diligent about rinsing out your mouth immediately and brushing your teeth at least an hour after consuming tobacco products to remove the residue.

Other Risk Factors and Solutions

  • Misaligned bite - You may achieve bite alignment with Invisalign clear retainers. This is a specialty at our Beverly Hills dental spa. 

  • Lip and tongue piercings - Remove the piercing to prevent further damage to the gums.

  • Hormonal changes - Take especially good care of your diet and teeth during pregnancy and when taking birth control pills.

  • Genetic factors - Some people seem to be genetically predisposed to gum recession. While you can’t change your genes, doing everything else right can help to lower your individual risk.

Advanced Techniques to Treat Gum Recession

If your gums recede to the point that a pocket forms (in which food and bacteria can lodge), you may need specialized treatments from a dentist or periodontist.

Tooth Scaling and Root Planing

In tooth scaling and root planing, the affected gum tissue is pulled away from the tooth for a deep cleaning under and around the gum line. The notch in the tooth is flattened to make it easier to clean the tooth.

Flap Surgery

This is a surgical treatment in which the gum flaps are cut and lowered so that the dentist can clean the teeth and tooth roots thoroughly. The gum is then pulled back up and stitched into place, reducing pockets where possible for easier dental care. Dental crowns can be placed to disguise any black holes between teeth that have been caused by unhealthy gums.

Gum Grafts

In a gum graft, tissue is removed from a flap cut on the roof of the mouth and stitched to the gums to bring them back up to where they are supposed to be. Gum surgery is often the only option when gum recession is severe.

How Can I Prevent Gum Recession?

First and foremost, taking care of your oral health is the easiest and most effective way to have healthy, non-recessive gums:

  1. Brushing, flossing, and rinsing daily with mouthwash are vital practices for a healthy mouth.

  2. You can also prevent harmful practices like over-brushing or aggressive brushing by buying a soft-bristled toothbrush. If you have tooth sensitivity, try a toothpaste for sensitive mouths

  3. Finally, fixing other factors like teeth grinding, tobacco use, mouth piercings, and inadequate nutrition can help you prevent future or further damage to your gums. 

Gum Recession Is Serious, But It Can Be Minimized

As you can see, the deterioration of your gum tissue is not something to be taken lightly, nor is it enjoyable or healthy for your mouth. 

To stop receding gums, avoid things like aggressive brushing and tobacco use, and be sure to brush, floss, and rinse with mouthwash every day. Keep an eye on those gums, maintain a healthy diet, and discuss treatment options with your dentist for any visible gum recession to enjoy the healthiest gums and teeth possible.

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