Receding gums are a very common oral health problem. A slight change in the shape of your gums over time may not seem like much to worry about. However, this is often a sign of an underlying condition like periodontitis that needs to be treated to keep your gums and teeth healthy. If your gums recede too much, your teeth can start to look misshapen. If a portion of the tooth root is exposed, you may start having uncomfortable tooth sensitivity.

Why are my gums receding?

The most common cause of receding gums is gingivitis. This is an inflammation of the gum tissue caused by tartar under the gum line. These bits of tartar are very hard. They irritate your gums kind of like having a pebble in your shoe can give you a blister. Smoking is very bad for your gums and often causes recession. Sometimes, excessive brushing with a hard-bristled toothbrush or allergies to ingredients in toothpaste can contribute to gum recession. Hormonal changes (such as menopause or pregnancy) and bad dental habits like tooth grinding are occasional causes.

How can I stop my gums from receding?

If this problem is just starting, you can stop your gums from receding any further simply by improving your oral hygiene technique. You should be using a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean all surfaces of your teeth at least twice a day. Focus on holding the head of the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your teeth (pointing slightly up toward the gums) as you brush gently in circular motions along the gum line. This approach allows the bristles to reach under the gums just a little and sweep away plaque. Proper flossing (cupping the side of each tooth and pulling up rather than sawing back and forth) is the other essential step in your daily dental care routine. You may also want to use a mouthwash that is designed to stop gingivitis. Limit sugary and starchy foods in your diet to cut down on plaque buildup.

What can my dentist do about receding gums?

Early stages of gum disease are treated with a thorough cleaning. The dentist may scale your teeth (scraping off tartar along and just below the gum line). This is followed with a root planing process that gives your tooth roots a smooth, even surface. This limits the ability of bacteria to colonize the area between your gums and the roots of your teeth. Less bacteria means less plaque and tartar to irritate and inflame your gums.

Can I regrow receding gums?

With proper care, your gums may heal themselves if they have only receded a little bit. Some patients claim that essential oil products like OraMD help them stop or reverse gum damage. The mechanism by which these natural ingredients might work to regrow gum tissue is not well understood. If your gum recession is caused by an allergy or sensitivity to toothpaste, switching to an alternative tooth and gum cleaning product might be beneficial. However, it’s a good idea to check with your dentist before trying any home remedies just to make sure they are safe.

Can gum tissue be replaced?

Yes, if you have severely receding gums, you may be a candidate for gum grafting surgery. Your dentist or oral surgeon can take tissue from the roof of your mouth to replace lost gum tissue. In some cases, you might be a candidate for a newer procedure that uses a collagen membrane soaked in a solution of your own platelets to regrow gum tissue. This procedure is still in the experimental stages, but early results appear to be promising.