Receding Gums: Why is This Happening? What Can I Do?

While there’s plenty of angst over receding hairlines, receding gum lines need prompt attention. Let’s spotlight the causes, the signs and symptoms, and focus on steps you need to take.

THE CAUSES: Gingival recession, or receding gums, is what happens when gum tissue is recessed – exposing the roots of the teeth. This can be caused by any number of habits, including:

  • Overly aggressive brushing or flossing: Soft bristled brushes are your tools of choice.
  • Inadequate brushing and flossing: A bad brush job makes it easy for plaque to turn into calculus (tartar) – a hard substance that builds on and between your teeth. This can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning.
  • Genetics: If one or both of your parents have gum recession, you’re at a higher risk for receding gums. In fact, studies show 30%of the population may be predisposed to gum disease, regardless of how well they care for their teeth.
  • Abnormal tooth positioning and crooked teeth: When teeth do not come together evenly, too much force can be placed on the gums and bone, allowing gums to recede.
  • Teeth grinding or bruxism.
  • Smoking and tobacco use: Over time, this bad habit will impact blood supply to the gums.
  • Hormonal changes: Fluctuations in female hormone levels at puberty, pregnancy and menopause can make gums more sensitive and vulnerable to recession.
  • Oral piercings: These may force tissue aside over time.
  • Diabetes: The disease is definitely linked to receding gums.


  • Are you starting to notice a tooth that appears longer than its neighbors?
  • Do you see yellow stains where the tooth touches the gum line, or even a ridge you can feel on the affected tooth?
  • Is one of your teeth suddenly sensitive?

AT HOME CARE: Careful at-home monitoring is your first line of defense.

  • Brush and floss more regularly.
  • Make sure you are using a soft-bristled brush.
  • Stop using all tobacco products.
  • Get teeth straightened to help prevent gingivitis.
  • Use a night mouth guard to stop teeth grinding.

IN OFFICE TREATMENT: Routine preventive care is, of course, step one to optimize your dental health. Whether mild or extreme, in-office treatments halt recession, and in some cases, restore lost tissue.
Periodontal therapy involving laser treatments targets and sanitizes problem areas and may allow gum tissue to reattach to the tooth’s surface.
In some instances, a special, deeper cleaning called “scaling” and “root planing” may be indicated.
If gum recession is severe, a graft might be the correct treatment.
Crown lengthening or “pocket depth reduction” is another alternative we can explore if your gums have receded to the point where tooth loss is imminent.

When and if you notice some recession, come in and let’s talk about the best plan of action. Working together, we can halt recession, solve the problems and ensure a great smile for years to come.