Receding Gums



What are receding gums? Receding gums are gums that have pulled away from the surface of the tooth and crept away, exposing the root of the tooth. There are several different causes for receding gums that can result in sensitivity or even tooth loss. Because the gums help support the teeth, receding gums should not be taken lightly.


What causes receding gums? Gum recession is usually due to one of the following causes:
Gum Disease
When you suffer from gum disease, there is an active infection under the surface of your gums between them and your teeth. These bacteria are attacked by antibodies in your bloodstream, which creates inflammation, redness and destruction of the fibers that attach the gums to your teeth. As gum infections persist, the gums creep farther down the root surface due to destruction of attachment fibers.

Abrasive Toothbrushing
Using a medium or hard-bristled toothbrush can cause more harm than good. Aggressive brushing – even with a soft-bristled brush – is traumatic to your gum tissue and can cause or advance existing gum recession.1

Tobacco Use
Smoking makes it very difficult to manage gum recession and promotes loss of gum attachment. However, the use of smokeless tobacco is the most harmful method of tobacco use when it comes to receding gums.2 The abrasive ingredients inside of smokeless tobacco cause irritation to the tissue and are typically associated with severe gum recession in the area where the tobacco is most often held.

Tooth Misalignment
Crowded, misaligned teeth are at an increased risk to have gum recession. This may be to excess force placed on them during oral hygiene, or it may be due to anatomical forces that encourage the loss of gums and bone around these teeth.

Grinding Of The Teeth
If you suffer from clenching or tooth grinding, your teeth tend to flex along the neck of the tooth, near the gumlines. This is typically seen as an abrasion in the tooth enamel, but it may also contribute to loss of gum attachment in areas where enamel is damaged.

Orthodontic Therapy
Teeth that are moved too rapidly may not allow proper reformation and transition of the supporting tissues around the affected teeth.3 This often results in unnatural bone loss around those teeth, followed by gum recession around the affected tooth. It may also cause destruction of the roots.

Oral Anatomy
If you’ve ever noticed the small strip of skin between your lower lip and your two front middle teeth, you should know that this frenum might also contribute to recession in certain cases. Rarely, the frenum may be exceptionally tight or short, causing increased stress on the attached tissue on the tooth. As a result this may pull over time and cause the gums to recede due to the tension.


Signs And Symptoms

Receding gums can really sneak up on you if you are not careful. Typically gum recession is a very slow process that may not be noticeable at first, until you begin to see the roots of the teeth. Your dentist measures gum recession in millimeters and even two millimeters of attachment loss is significant. Here are some typical signs that you may be suffering from receded gums

When you have receded gums, a portion of the root is exposed to outside elements. They were not meant to be exposed and often respond with hypersensitivity. Even simple toothbrushing along the gumlines can cause an intense pain that feels as if the nerve has been exposed.
Sensitivity is due to the exposed pores on the root surfaces. These pores have nerve endings that extend from inside of the tooth to the outside of the tooth. When gums recede, stimulation can reach the pores and send jolting signals toward the nerve.

Exposed Root Surfaces
The portion of tooth anatomy that is under enamel is called dentin. Dentin appears yellow next to the white tooth enamel and is exposed when the gums recede. When you see this yellow area next to a defined white crown, you will know that recession has occurred.

Redness And Swelling
If your gum recession is related to gum disease or periodontitis, there will be some inflammation and swelling associated with the area of gum recession. When plaque biofilm, tartar and other bacteria thrive near and under the gumlines, the body’s natural response is to destroy the attachment of the gums in the area. This causes infection and receding gums.

Teeth That Appear Longer Than Normal
When gums recede, the root of the tooth is exposed between the dental crown and the gumlines. The result is the appearance of a long tooth. Only one tooth may appear long or your entire smile may seem to be made up of long teeth. This appearance is due to receded gums.

Spaces Between Teeth
The appearance of dark spaces between your teeth near the gumlines is due to the loss of the gum “papilla” between the teeth. As gums recede, this sharp point of gum tissue is lost, as it creeps away with the other supporting gum tissue. The result is dark spaces between the teeth that were formerly covered with gum tissue.

Food Packing
As the gums recede and cause spaces between the teeth to be exposed, food easily becomes packed and lodged in these areas. Typically you will find one or more particular spaces that food packs in the majority of the time. Naturally these areas should be covered by gums and prevent food from lodging in the space. When food packs in problem areas it tends to compound and cause a consistent area of irritation and infection when not completely removed. This leads to further gum recession.

Association With Gum Disease
Food packs between the teeth but especially in the gum pockets that are formed beneath the gumlines against the teeth. As gums recede it also causes less tissue to be attached to the root of the tooth. Gums with natural healthy pockets measure up to two or three millimeters deep. As gums become diseased and lose attachment, the pockets become deeper. If you have gum recession that measures a significant five or six millimeters, it can be very serious because even with an area of no infection there will be an additional two to three millimeters of unattached gums within the pocket. If infection does exist, the pocket could be four millimeters or deeper. When combined with deep gum disease pockets, gum recession can be very serious and evidence of possible future tooth loss.



Upper Teeth
Recession is measured by the distance between the margin of your crown (where the enamel tapers off, called the cementoenamel junction) and the level of the gums.

Gum recession is measured in the following categories:

  • Class I – Mild gum recession. There is no bone loss or loss of tissue between the teeth.
  • Class II – Gum recession extends toward the border of attached and loose gingiva. There is no bone loss or loss of tissue between the teeth.
  • Class III – Gum recession extends past the border of attached and loose gingiva. Bone loss or loss of tissue between the teeth is evident. The root is partially covered.
  • Class IV – Severe gum recession that is associated with gross loss of bone. There is no root coverage.

Receded gums are measured in terms of attachment loss. Simply having mild gum recession does not mean you are in the clear for gum disease. You may have mild recession with just one to two millimeters of exposed root surface, but a very deep pocket under the gumlines that is symptomatic of severe periodontitis. However, severe gum recession also means there obviously cannot be enough bone support on that portion of the tooth, meaning tooth stability is at risk. The more moderate to severe your gum recession, the more susceptible your tooth is to mobility and loss.

Dangers And Health Risks

Gum recession is a key factor in maintaining healthy tooth stability. Losing attachment levels around a tooth can ultimately lead to tooth loss, which also affects the adjacent teeth in the area. If recession is due to habits such as abrasive brushing, grinding, clenching or tobacco use, it is important to halt these before even more loss can occur.

Receded gums can also be a signal that you are suffering from gum disease. Healthy gums are tightly attached to the teeth near the margin of the dental crown, with no exposed root surfaces. If inflammation, bleeding, redness or sore gums are associated with your receded gums, it is likely that you are suffering from periodontitis. This severe form of gum disease is directly associated with health risks and conditions45 such as:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Preterm labor

Gum recession may be slow, or it may be very progressive. Most recession is usually noticed when you have already lost two millimeters of attachment around the tooth, leaving a mild amount of root surface exposed. The more severe your gum disease, the quicker you will see the attachment levels being lost. If the cause of your recession is due to grinding or abrasive brushing, the signals may take longer to appear. Any signs of recession during orthodontic treatment should immediately be brought to the attention of your orthodontist. Recession during orthodontic therapy is a sign that movement is occurring at too rapid of a rate, with gum and bone levels not being able to keep up with the repositioning.


How To Prevent Receding Gums

Dental Exam

Keep Gum Disease In Check
Treating early signs of gum disease like bleeding and sore gums will keep recession at bay. Neglecting gum health allows periodontitis to occur, which causes gums to detach from the surfaces of teeth. As a result, gum recession occurs and is directly linked with stability of teeth with periodontitis infections. The best prevention plan is to use a daily oral hygiene program that includes brushing, flossing, and rinsing. Use 100% pure botanical oral hygiene products that kill the bad bacteria that lead to gum problems

Use A Soft-Bristled Toothbrush
Perhaps the number one cause of receded gums is from brushing too hard or brushing with a medium or stiff-bristled toothbrush. Not only do stiff bristles cause gum recession, but they can also abrade – wear down or rub away by friction -the enamel away from the tooth, resulting in sharp wedges taken out of the tooth near the gumlines.
Brush with a soft-bristled brush and only place as much pressure as needed to cause gentle tissue blanching. Anything more forceful is damaging to your gums and can push them away from the teeth.

Wear A Guard During Nighttime Grinding
If you wake up with sore jaws, or have sharply worn teeth, you may be grinding or clenching your teeth together. Because this action also causes the teeth to flex and break near the margin of the gums, you may suffer gum recession as a side effect. Preventing flexing and wear associated with teeth grinding can reduce the risks of gum recession.

Check Your Gums Regularly
During your normal oral care time, look in the mirror to see if there are any abnormal gumlines. Your gums should appear fairly even with one another (considering the scalloped pattern along your teeth). If you have one or more teeth that appear longer than the same tooth in the opposite side of the mouth, it may be suffering from recession. Ensure you are following proper oral care methods and treat gum infections appropriately to ensure the condition does not worsen.



Conventional Treatments
In order to fix receding gums, conventional treatment requires surgical measures. Most surgery for receding gums is invasive and uncomfortable, requiring lengthy healing times. In order to surgically treat receding gums, tissue is typically taken from another location and then placed in the area needed in order to repair receding gums. Gum grafting can be a fairly expensive procedure, averaging several hundred dollars for a single tooth. Typically multiple teeth are just a small additional charge.

There are different types of graft surgery used to treat receding gums.

Tissue Grafts
Traditional graft surgery involves tissue taken from the roof of your mouth and then sewn into place (sutured – joining two edges together) where the gum recession has occurred, covering the exposed root surfaces.

Pedicle Grafts
When there is enough excess tissue around the area of gum recession, it may be possible to have a small incision made, creating a flap. This flap is then stretched across the area of the gum recession and sewn (sutured) into place.

Donor Tissue Grafts
Tissue may also be used from a tissue bank. Using donor tissue results in less healing time because there is no need to remove or make incisions to access graft tissue within your own mouth. The donor tissue is sewn (sutured) into place or held in place by an additional protein additive.

The small flap of skin that extends from between the middle of your lower front two teeth and the lip is called a frenum. If the frenum is too tight it can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth. For areas that suffer gum recession due to a tight frenum, simply snipping the frenum can reduce the stress that it placed on the gum margin. A frenectomy usually costs no more than a few hundred dollars, but typically needs to be paired up with a graft surgery for the affected area.


Natural And Home Remedies

Holistic Dental Options
The use of herbal supplements and remedies can create a healthier oral environment that promotes gum attachment levels. Many essential oils can be used on a toothbrush or in a glass of water to use as a mouthrinse.

Home Remedy Options
When you’re trying to reverse receding gums, the important part is to know how to stop receding gums. There are natural optionsavailable that can promote oral health by aiding in the destruction of harmful bacteria and creating an overall healthier environment that promotes gum attachment.
Remedies for receding gums truly lie within great oral hygiene practices that are gentle on the gums. Using gentle, 100% pure products along with a daily oral hygiene program can help fight harmful oral bacteria, the cause behind many gum problems.


Lifestyle Recommendations And Changes


Give Up Tobacco 
Tobacco is one of the worst external factors when it comes to reversing oral disease conditions. The use of tobacco is harmful to the health of the gums and in most cases prevents the healing process from occurring. In cases of gum recession, smokeless tobacco is especially harmful as it causes direct tissue irritation and can further gum recession into very severe states

Limit Your Sugar And Acidic Foods
If you suffer from symptoms of gum disease, eating a diet that consists of processed foods, refined sugars, acidic drinks and alcohol can create an environment that allows bacteria to thrive. Eating a balanced diet free of sugars and acids is extremely beneficial to tissue health and reducing live disease bacteria in infected areas.
Why limiting sugar intake holds the key to optimal dental health.

Reduce Stress
Stress is a common cause of teeth grinding and clenching. Consider making choices that help limit stressors and participate in relaxation techniques such as yoga. The use of an appliance during sleep may also help prevent excess strain due to muscle tension.


Your Questions About Receding Gums Answered

Why are my gums receding? 
Gums recede for several different reasons. The primary cause of gum recession is due to gum disease. When bacteria invade the area around the tooth it causes the gums to detach and creep farther down the root. Other causes include the use of tobacco, abrasive toothbrushing techniques, tooth misalignment and grinding.

Do receding gums grow back?
Receding gums do not grow back. However, lost gum tissue can reconnect in the area of the gingival pocket (the pocket below the gums next to the tooth). This can prevent further gum recession. Gum tissue can only reattach if the area is healthy and free of gum disease.

How can I reverse receding gums? 
If receding gums are due to gum disease, treating the gum infection will halt the progression of the gum loss. In most cases you cannot re-grow gum tissue on your own. It is important to stop gum recession before it progresses to the point where you need surgical gum grafting. You can encourage gum reattachment in areas of gum disease by reversing the disease and keeping the tissue healthy.

Can I repair receding gums naturally? 
If your gum recession is due to gum disease it is possible to help reverse the gum infection. Unfortunately gums do not typically repair themselves. It is best to treat the condition by stopping whatever is causing it and then seek professional help for advanced stages of gum recession. If gums have simply lost connection to the tooth, this gum pocket can be repaired through treating the gum disease and creating a healthy environment for the tooth.

What are the common causes of receding gums? 
Common causes of receding gums are:

  • Gum disease
  • Tobacco use
  • Abrasive toothbrushing
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Grinding
  • Orthodontic treatment

My gums are only receding on one tooth. Why is this?
Some teeth are more susceptible to recession than others. If you have a tooth that is out of alignment (such as due to severe crowding) or in an area where you scrub harder during brushing (this typically happens near the corners of the mouth), then those teeth may be more likely to suffer from receding gums.

Could I be making my gum recession worse? 
Yes. Brushing the area too hard or using too stiff of a toothbrush can actually cause your gums to recede even more. Only use a soft-bristled brush and apply just enough pressure where the tissue begins to blanch. Overaggressive brushing can cause more recession as well as enamel abrasion. Likewise, delaying treatment or using tobacco products can encourage the advancement of receding gums.

What will happen if my gum recession isn’t treated? 
If gum recession is allowed to progress, it causes a lack of support around your affected tooth. When tooth support is compromised, the tooth can become loose or mobile. Over time this mobility typically results in loss of the tooth due to its inability to firmly stay in the socket.
Click here to learn how to kill the cause behind your gum problems.



  1. 1Litonjua, L.A., Andreana, S.; Bush, P.J., Cohen, R.E.; Toothbrushing And Gingival Recession.” Int. Dent. J. April 2003. 53(2):67-72. ↩
  2. 2National Cancer Institute. Smokeless Tobacco: Health And Other Effects.” Web 4 Dec. 2012. ↩
  3. 3Dilsiz, A.; Aydin, T.; Gingival Recession Associated With Orthodontic Treatment And Root Coverage.” J. Clin. Exp. Dent. 2010;2(1):c30-3. ↩
  4. 4Jepsen S, Kebschull M, Deschner J.; Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz. {Relationship Between Periodontitis And Systemic Diseases}.{Article in German} 2011 Sep;54(9):1089-96 ↩
  5. 5Zuo Z, Jiang J, Jiang R, Chen F, Liu J, Yang H, Cheng Y.; Effect Of Periodontitis On Erectile Function And Its Possible Mechanism.; J Sex Med. 2011 Sep;8(9):2598-605. ↩

Sharon Boyd

Sharon has been a Registered Dental Hygienist since 2001. She also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Relations and Business. In 2011, she began implementing her dental knowledge into freelance writing services that aided dentists, product designers, continuing education providers and web marketing firms for their online and distribution purposes. She has since bridged her services into the medical and cosmetic surgery fields.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
FacebookLinkedInGoogle Plus



Sold Out