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Can Receding Gums Grow Back?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Are you experiencing red, swollen, shrinking gums or pain while brushing and flossing your teeth? This could be gum recession. Gum recession occurs for several reasons – from using too much pressure while brushing to gum disease. Oral care habits and genetics are some potential factors of as well.

Gum recession can lead to tooth sensitivity and affect your smile. And while receding gums can't grow back, there are ways to catch gum recession early and prevent it from getting worse.

What Happens When Gums Recede?

While your teeth are your mouth's main showstopper (who doesn't love a good set of pearly whites?), your gums (or gingiva) are critical in protecting them and keeping them snug in place. If the gums begin to pull away, bacteria can enter these pockets, exposing the roots and making them susceptible to decay, and eventually, tooth loss.

Symptoms of Gum Recession

Gum recession can occur without any symptoms, so attending routine dental appointments is critical, as your hygienist and dentist will be able to notice its early signs. The most common symptoms of gum recession that you may see on your own include:

  • Bleeding after brushing or flossing
  • Bad breath
  • Pain at the gumline with swollen, red gums
  • Exposed tooth roots that cause sensitivity
  • A loose tooth
  • Shrunken gums

Causes of Gum Recession

  • Poor oral health: When bacteria in plaque (biofilm) builds up between the gums and teeth, the gums surrounding the teeth can become inflamed. Left untreated, this inflammation can result in deterioration of the gums and supporting bone structure. This can lead to gum recession and periodontal disease, a severe gum infection.
  • Overly aggressive brushing or flossing: It's great to be enthusiastic about oral care! But make sure you're gently brushing your teeth and not scrubbing hard. Over-brushing can wear down the enamel of your teeth and cause damage and receding gums
  • Genetics: Sometimes dental issues are partly out of our control. If either of your parents has gum recession, you may be at a higher risk.
  • Abnormal tooth positioning: Having teeth that aren't in alignment or a misaligned bite can create undue friction on the area, causing your gums to recede.
  • Grinding and clenching your teeth: Also called bruxism, this habit can cause many dental issues, including gum recession. Like abnormal tooth positioning, the extra force exerted can wear down your gums.
  • Hormonal changes: Women can go through several stages of dramatic hormone fluctuations in their lifetime, like puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Unfortunately, these natural life phases can make a woman more susceptible to gum disease and recession.
  • Trauma to gum tissue: Gum tissue may recede when traumatic injury has occurred. Recession can appear at the site of the damage or close to it.
  • Using tobacco: Smoking and tobacco use increases your risk for receding gums by increasing the likelihood of many dental issues for several reasons, including its weakening of the immune system and its inhibiting of saliva flow, which allows for more plaque to build up.

Treatment Options for Receding Gums

Once gum tissue has pulled back and away from your teeth, it's gone for good. However, there are options for treating gum recession! See your dental professional for an evaluation to determine the cause of your gum recession. After an assessment, they will recommend the best course of treatment for your needs.

A dental professional may be able to treat early signs of gum disease by performing a deep cleaning, also called root planing and scaling. This procedure cleans out bacteria from the pockets between the gums and teeth, removing infection and giving the gums the chance to heal.

If there's a progressive, noticeable recession, you're experiencing sensitivity, or you're not happy with the appearance, a dental professional may recommend a gum graft to replace the lost tissue. Gum grafting is a surgical procedure that usually involves taking a small amount of tissue from one area, such as the roof of the mouth, then transferring it to the gum area in need.

Preventing Further Recession

Your dentist and dental hygienist will also teach you how to best prevent further gum recession. They could recommend mitigation strategies, like adopting new oral care habits, quitting smoking, or wearing a mouthguard at night to protect your teeth when you grind or clench.

Good oral care habits can also prevent gingival recession. Always use a soft-bristled toothbrush and proper brushing technique to help protect your enamel and gums. This won't correct the current recession but is part of an oral hygiene program that can mitigate the chances of it worsening. If receding gums are due to other concerns, such as crooked teeth or a misaligned bite, talk to your dental professional about solving the initial issue to help slow or even stop the recession. If your teeth are out of alignment, orthodontics could be the solution.

We know that gum sensitivity or finding blood in the sink after brushing your teeth can be alarming. That's normal! No one likes to discover an oral health issue that has snuck up on them. But don't wait to see a dental professional for advice and treatment for your gum recession. While you can't reverse it, there are plenty of ways to treat gum recession that will depend on a dental professional's opinion of its root cause. Keep up with your excellent oral care routine, speak with your dental professional about your gum recession concerns, and before you know it, your gum recession will be a thing of the past!