What Causes Receding Gums and What Can You Do About It?

Receding gums tend to sneak up on you. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do about receding gums if you take action right away. With prompt treatment, gum recession is reversible.

What Are Receding Gums?

Gum tissue fits around healthy teeth like a cuff, protecting the tooth root. Receding gums occur when the gum tissue pulls away from the tooth. This exposes the tooth root.

Gum disease starts when plaque begins building up around the gums. This invisible film consisting of bacteria combining with food’s starches and sugars forms quickly. So, daily removal is necessary. If not removed, plaque can harden beneath the gumline into tartar. Tartar collects and protects bacteria. People who pay close attention to oral health and take good care of their teeth may still develop receding gums.

What Causes Receding Gums?  

Various factors contribute to receding gums. If close family members suffer from receding gums, the odds increase that you may prove similarly affected. However, genetics plays a relatively minor role in receding gum causes.

Most cases of receding gums occur from too vigorous brushing over a long period. Age is a factor because the condition is more common in older people. Tobacco use, either smoking or oral, can cause gum recession. So can poor dietary habits. Poorly fitting orthodontics, such as partial dentures, may exacerbate gum recession.

Receding Gums Risk Factors

While anyone may develop receding gums, certain people are more vulnerable than others. Besides smokers, these include:

  • AIDS patients
  • People with diabetes
  • Immunocompromised patients
  • Patients taking saliva-limiting medications

Gum Recession Symptoms

Gum recession happens slowly. Symptoms of receding gums may not become apparent until the condition has proceeded to a later stage.

Initial signs of receding gums may involve increased hot and cold sensitivity. Suspect gum recession if any of the following occur on the gums:

  • Bleeding
  • Reddening
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness

As the situation deteriorates, teeth may loosen. Infections may develop between the teeth and gums, evidenced by pain and pus. Hard brown deposits may build up along the gumline.

Detecting Gum Recession

At your dental checkup, the dentist measures the depth of the pockets around the gums. A tool called a periodontal probe reaches into the gum pockets and measures the depth of each pocket. The deeper the pocket, the more likely bacteria and plaque have collected.

By keeping a record of these measurements, the dentist can detect the progress of receding gums. This allows the dentist to prescribe treatment for gum pocket depth reduction.   

Health Risks

Gum recession puts more than dental health at risk. As gum disease advances, it may predispose patients to serious illnesses, including heart attack, stroke and diabetes. In fact, those with gum disease have three times the risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event than people without the disease.

Preventing Receding Gums

Avoid brushing your teeth too hard. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush rather than a hard one. Follow your dentist’s oral health care recommendations and use a good toothpaste.

There is good news about gum recession. When it is detected in its earliest stage — known as gingivitis — this initial stage is reversible with treatment. That isn’t the case with later stages. While treatable, the recession is not reversible.

Periodontal Disease

If gum disease is left untreated, it may lead to tooth and bone loss. That condition is known as periodontal disease or periodontitis. Over time, periodontal disease can cause damage to the ligaments and bones, offering tooth support. The end result is that teeth loosen and fall out. Periodontal disease is not treated by a dentist, but a periodontist addresses those oral health issues.

Receding Gums Treatment

Gingivitis treatment consists primarily of practicing good oral hygiene habits. In addition to brushing twice daily with the right toothbrush, patients should floss every day and see their dentist at least twice yearly. If a patient has certain risk factors such as diabetes or taking certain medications, they may need to visit the dentist more frequently.

In scaling and root planing, the dentist removes tartar and plaque from the surfaces of the tooth root. Patients with gum recession may benefit from gum grafts. This procedure involves removing a small amount of tissue from the roof of the mouth. It is then sutured over the area of the exposed bone or tooth. For those who do not want to go through the healing process when tissue is removed from the mouth, donor tissue is available.

Contact Us

Treating receding gums and gingivitis when first diagnosed can make all the difference in the outcome. It can really come down to whether you can keep your teeth, or if you will eventually need prosthetics. Along with protecting your health, timely treatment can save a great deal of money.

If you would like more information about receding gums and treatment for gum recession, contact the team at West Coast Dental today at 888-329-8111. After an examination, we will let you know your options for the treatment of receding gums. West Coast Dental is Southern California’s friendly neighborhood dental service. Whether you’re searching for a dentist in Corona,  Long Beach, Hawthorne, Los Angeles, etc, we are here to help. Connect with us today!

West Coast Dental, offers a variety of dental services from dental implants, braces, teeth whitening, etc. Check out our dentists in Whittier, South Gate, Pico Rivera, Norco and other locations. Contact us to schedule an appointment today!


Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, and Oral Radiology – “Periodontal disease associated with HIV infection

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Periodontal Disease

Harvard Health Publishing – Gum disease and heart disease: The common thread

Mayo Clinic – Gingivitis

Tufts Now – What is gum recession and how do gum grafts work to remedy it?

Mayo Clinic – Periodontitis

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