Managing Receding Gums: Causes & Treatment Options

Managing Receding Gums: Causes & Treatment Options
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Managing Receding Gums: Causes & Treatment OptionsClinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. Why Are My Gums Receding?
  2. Treatment Options
  3. Surgery for Gum Recession
  4. Management & Prevention
  5. References

The best way to manage receding gums is by treating your gums with care and maintaining good oral hygiene. If you have severe gum recession, gum graft surgery may be needed.

Gum recession may take some time to notice, but it can be a serious problem for your oral health.

Gums recede for a variety of reasons. You might simply have thinner gums, or your gums might be frequently irritated by brushing too hard. Gum disease is the leading cause of receding gums, and this requires dental treatment.

Why Are My Gums Receding?

Receding gums become increasingly common as you get older . Many people over 40 years old in the United States have some recession from years of wear and tear on the gums, especially from hard-bristled toothbrushes or brushing too aggressively. You may also have thinner gums due to genetics, which increases the risk of gum recession.

However, receding gums are often the sign of gum disease, which afflicts almost half of all American adults. Gum disease, either gingivitis or periodontitis, can get worse without treatment, exposing the root of the tooth to further infection.

When the gum recedes away from the root of your tooth, that means the tooth is not receiving enough nutrition through blood flow. This can damage the tooth, destabilize it so it is loose, and lead to tooth decay and loss. Although there are other problems with gum disease, including infection in the roots of the tooth, gum recession is one of the most serious.

Unfortunately, you cannot grow back gums once they have started to recede. However, serious cases of gum recession can benefit from surgery. You can prevent further gum recession with a good oral hygiene routine.

Treatment Options for Receding Gums

Once your gums have receded enough to expose the root, you will likely need surgery to graft some gum tissue back into place. Treatment for receding gums will also include prevention strategies like:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice per day, for two minutes.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, and consider getting an electric toothbrush to prevent yourself from putting too much pressure to your gums.
  • Floss or use interdental brushes at least once per day.
  • Stop using tobacco products like cigarettes, vape pens, and chewing tobacco.
  • Adjust your diet, so you consume less refined sugar.
  • Drink fewer sugary or acidic drinks, including alcohol, fruit juice, sodas, and sparkling water.
  • Remove any piercings in your lips that might hit your gums and irritate them.
  • Tell your dentist if appliances like dentures, bridges, braces, or clear plastic aligners do not fit, and have them adjusted.
  • Visit your dentist at least once per year for a checkup and cleaning.

Surgery for Gum Recession

To understand potential causes of gum recession, your dentist will perform a routine examination to look at the health of your teeth, gums, and jaw. They will also ask you some questions about your oral care routine at home, and they may recommend certain toothpastes, brushes, or mouthwashes to support better oral health.

If your gum recession stems from brushing too hard or genetics, your dentist may keep an eye on the problem until you show signs of requiring surgery. If gum disease is the cause, they will begin treating you for this infection.

Surgery for gum recession is the best way to support tooth health when your gums have receded a good amount. The surgeon will graft a piece of gum tissue over the tooth and suture it in place. The graft tissue is most likely to come from you, but your dentist may use donor tissue. Gum graft tissue might cover just one tooth that is most affected, or it might cover several teeth at once.

  • Connective tissue grafts: This is a type of periodontal procedure in which tissue is taken from the roof of your mouth, the tissue is sutured into place over the tooth, and the flap on the roof of your mouth is closed.
  • Free gingival grafts: For people who have very thin gums and need a graft to prevent recession or to make the gums thicker and healthier, tissue is removed from the top of the mouth and stitched into place over several affected teeth.
  • Pedicle (lateral) grafts: For those who have enough healthy gum tissue around the receding gum, the surgeon will remove a patch of nearby tissue and use that as a graft over the affected tooth.

As with all oral surgeries, there will be a few days of recovery time. Your periodontist will tell you what to expect during recovery. This includes eating soft foods and avoiding brushing or flossing near the treatment site. You may receive a prescription for oral antibiotics or an antiseptic mouthwash. Typically, you can return to work the next day, but your mouth will need about one to two weeks to heal.

If gum recession is severe enough, your dentist may recommend removing the tooth rather than grafting gum tissue over it. Tooth extraction is a more intensive surgery with a longer recovery time.

Managing & Preventing Gum Recession

The best way to deal with receding gums is to prevent them, especially if you know you have a higher genetic risk. Treating serious gum disease can take some time, and it may include more cosmetic treatments like braces or clear aligners. Proper dental alignment can reduce places for plaque to build up, which means you will suffer fewer cavities or gingivitis outbreaks, and it will be easier to clean your teeth.

However, aligners that do not fit well can irritate your gums, which can increase the risk of gum recession. If your aligners don’t fit well, get in touch with customer support or your dentist to have them adjusted.

General References

Receding Gums. California Dental Association (CDA).

Periodontal (Gum) Disease. (July 2018). National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR).

What Can Adults Do to Maintain Good Oral Health? (February 2021). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Are Your Gums Suffering a Recession? Humana.com.

Gum Graft Surgery. American Academy of Periodontology (AAP).

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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