Receding Gums: What Can You Do?

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Receding gums can be both painful and unsightly, and they can lead to serious dental problems.

If you don’t know what to do about receding gums or are curious about how to treat this problem, learn more about this condition’s symptoms, diagnosing receding gums, and how to treat them.

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How to identify receding gums

Receding gums is a condition that occurs when the edge of the gums pulls back, exposing more of the tooth as well as its root. Receding gums leave gaps between the teeth and gums, and these gaps, or pockets, can trap bacteria that may lead to tooth decay or even tooth loss.¹

Since receding gums can lead to several other dental problems, it is important to do what you can to prevent them. 

Causes of receding gums

Quite a few factors can contribute to receding gums. One of the most common causes is gum disease, otherwise known as periodontal disease. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of periodontal disease², such as bleeding, swollen, or red gums, visit a dental professional as soon as possible for treatment.

Some factors that may cause receding gums are beyond your control. However, there are a few things you can do to keep your gums in the best shape possible.

Teeth grinding

If you wake up with a sore jaw or a headache, you might be grinding your teeth at night without realizing it. Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, can be a contributing factor to receding gums, so it is important to address this issue to reduce the chance you experience receding gums.³

Your dentist can help you address teeth grinding and provide you with a device like a retainer to use as you sleep.

Abnormally positioned teeth

If you’ve had braces in the past and currently wear a retainer, be sure to use your retainer diligently to keep your teeth from going back to their former poor positioning.


According to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine, certain genetic variations may be the cause of tooth decay and aggressive periodontitis. If you are genetically predisposed to gum disease, you may have to take extra precautions and extra care of your teeth.⁴

Oral care routine

Any injury that affects your teeth may contribute to gum recession. Your oral care routine could also be a culprit behind receding gums. If you brush too aggressively, you can damage your gums and tooth enamel. On the other hand, not brushing your teeth often enough, or neglecting to floss or rinse with anti-bacterial mouthwash, can also cause receding gums.

Hormonal changes

Puberty and menopause can both be a culprit, but other hormonal changes can impact your dental health. Estrogen and progesterone can cause more blood flow to the gums, which may lead them to swell, bleed, and become inflamed. 

Tobacco usage

The use of chewing tobacco or cigarettes can cause plaque to build up, which in turn damages the gums. This habit also causes your gums to become irritated and inflamed, which may contribute to receding gums if you have them already or lead for them to occur over time if your condition does not improve.⁵

If you are currently a smoker or chew tobacco, cutting back on your habit or stopping altogether will improve the condition of your gums. 

How to prevent gums from receding

While some circumstances, such as being genetically predisposed to gum disease, are outside of your control, you can take steps to prevent receding gums with the following actions:⁶

  • Brush twice per day

  • Floss regularly

  • Visit the dentist regularly and don’t skip appointments

Your regular dental care, along with advice from a trusted dental professional, can help you prevent gum recession and improve your odds that your teeth will be healthy for years to come.

How to fix receding gums

If you suspect that your gums are receding, you should not avoid the problem, as it will not go away the longer you ignore it. Make an appointment with your dentist so that they can evaluate the extent of the damage to your gums and make a treatment recommendation.

Tooth scaling and root planing

If your receding gums are not too severe, a deep cleaning might be the solution you need. Your dentist or dental hygienist will carefully clean all the plaque and tartar from your teeth and the exposed tooth roots below the gum. They will also smooth out the exposed tooth root, making it more difficult for bacteria to gain a foothold.

This deep cleaning process, which is sometimes called tooth scaling and root planing, can take more than one session to complete. Because tooth scaling and root planing can cause some discomfort, you’ll likely be administered an anesthetic. Afterward, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics in order to remove any lingering bacteria.⁷


If gum recession is advanced and part of the tooth root is exposed, a gum graft may be needed to repair the gum and prevent additional recession. During a gum graft, a thin piece of gum tissue is taken from another place in your mouth and attached where the gum tissue has receded. Once the graft heals, it covers the exposed tooth root. Grafts may be done around one or more teeth. They protect the tooth root from sensitivity and decay.⁸

Schedule an appointment with a dentist

Gum recession is a serious problem, but your dental care professional can help minimize the damage and get your smile back in top form. Find a dentist that can provide you with the care and treatment you need to stop receding gums before they do significant damage. If you have concerns about your current dental insurance coverage, it is important to review your policy.

Links to external sites are provided for your convenience in locating related information and services. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents and employees expressly disclaim any responsibility for and do not maintain, control, recommend, or endorse third-party sites, organizations, products, or services and make no representation as to the completeness, suitability, or quality thereof.

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.


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