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About Receding Gums

By Holly McGurgan ; Updated August 14, 2017

Receding gums expose tooth roots to the air, causing pain and potential tooth loss if the cause of the condition isn’t identified and treated. The condition is particularly common in people over age 40, according to the California Dental Association. Prompt treatment of receding gums is important in preventing further loss or deterioration of the gums.


If you have receding gums, you may notice that you can see the beginning of the tooth root when you look in the mirror. Gums may bleed when you brush them or be sore or puffy.


Several tooth-brushing practices can lead to receding gums. Brushing too vigorously, using a hard toothbrush or using an old, frayed toothbrush may irritate the gums and cause gum recession. Some gum recession may also be a part of aging. The California Dental Association reports that many cases of receding gums occur due to gum disease. When gum disease occurs, plaque and tartar collect at the gum line, irritating the gums. If untreated, the gums begin to pull away from the teeth, forming deep, bacteria-filled spaces called pockets.

Risk Factors reports that the practice of piercing the mouth and tongue can contribute to receding gums. Jewelry worn in the mouth and tongue rub against the tissues, causing erosion. Other risk factors for gum loss include smoking, using chewing tobacco or grinding the teeth. also reports that people who have bulimia may be more likely to suffer from gum problems because the stomach acid in vomit can corrode teeth and gums. Bulimics force themselves to vomit to avoid weight gain after eating.

Home Care

If receding gums are not severe, you may be able to reverse the problem by following good oral hygiene practices. Daily brushing and flossing, coupled with regular visits to the dentist, will help remove plaque from your teeth. If aggressive tooth brushing is causing the problem, changing the way you brush your teeth can help gums recover. The California Dental Association recommends brushing teeth in a circular or short back and forth motion using a soft toothbrush and mild to moderate pressure.

Dental Treatment

Your dentist may recommend that you undergo a deep dental cleaning if your receding gums are caused by gum disease. When gum recession is severe, a gum graft may be needed to protect the roots of the teeth from exposure. During a gum graft, an oral surgeon moves existing gum tissue over the tooth or uses gum tissue from another part of your mouth or from a donor to cover the tooth.

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