Gum recession doesn't happen overnight but often follows years of oral health negligence. Even people who brush and floss diligently may still inevitably have to face this periodontal issue. Oftentimes, gum recession is a result of several factors in a person's life, from something habitual like chain smoking and going to bed without brushing, to something more intrinsic like hormonal changes and aging. Without paying close attention to your oral health, it could take years to finally notice your own receding gums. This periodontal problem refers to the condition in which gum tissue surrounding the teeth gradually shrink and expose more of the tooth roots. If ignored, gum recession can lead to oral sensitivity, loose teeth, tooth decay and ultimately tooth loss. Luckily, gum recession can be prevented and reversed. No matter how old you are, it's never too early or too late to take excellent care of your gums.
What Causes Receding Gums
Periodontal Disease - Poor periodontal health is the number one culprit of gum recession. Inadequate dental care usually results in gum inflammation and bacterial overgrowth in the pockets between the gum and teeth. If left untreated, these bacteria will gradually destroy gum tissue, causing it to pull back from the teeth and eventually damage tooth structures.
Hormonal Changes - According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, women are a lot more susceptible to periodontal problems than men. This is, by no means, an indication that women have poorer hygiene than their male counterparts. It is the fluctuations of female hormones that increase women's tendency to fall prey to gum diseases. Hormonal changes during ovulation, pregnancy and menopause can all heighten the risk of gum inflammation as well as aggravation of existing gingivitis.
Genetic Factors - Sometimes no matter how immaculate your oral hygiene is, you may still develop periodontal disease because it runs in your family. In fact, studies show that children of parents with chronic gum problems are 12 times more prone to accumulation of plaque bacteria, which eventually leads to periodontal issues.
Smoking - Nicotine in cigarettes reduces oxygen in gum tissue and triggers an overproduction of protein molecules called "cytokines," which over time can cause periodontal connective tissue to break down. In fact, smokers are even more likely to suffer from gum recession and advanced periodontitis than non-smokers with not-so-stellar oral hygiene.
Age - Periodontal disease can happen to young and old people alike. As we age, however, our risk of developing periodontal problems and gum recession tend to increase. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that in a study of seniors over seventy years old, 86% of them turned out to have moderate and severe periodontitis. Gum recession isn't uncommon at all among people of this age group. Perhaps the saying "long in the tooth" could be taken literally after all.
10 Ways to Stop Your Gums from Receding
- Pay regular visits to your dentist. Most people only need to get their teeth cleaned and checked up by a professional once or twice a year, but those who are more at risk of periodontal problems may need to see their dentist more frequently than that. If you haven't seen a dentist for more than a year and your gums have already started receding, don't assume brushing and flossing your teeth more often will miraculously reverse the condition. Chances are you'll need deep cleaning done by proper dental equipment, in order to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth below the gum line. Your toothbrush, whether manual or electric, simply can't perform this task.
- Maintain good oral hygiene. The American Dental Association suggests we brush our teeth twice a day, and floss once a day. For those who like to snack on candy or sweets, however, additional brushing might be needed.
- Brush and floss the right way. More pressure doesn't equal cleaner teeth. Be as gentle as you can when you brush and floss. Overaggressive brushing and flossing can actually hurt your gum tissue.
- Opt for herbal toothpaste. Most commercial-brand toothpastes contain chemicals that may irritate sensitive gum tissue. The ingredients in question may include detergents, synthetic preservatives and artificial colorants. Herbal toothpastes, especially ones with Echinacea and rosemary, are not only friendlier to sensitive gums but can also stimulate gum tissue regeneration.
- Invest on an oral irrigator. It's a fancy device designed to remove food particles from the spaces between your teeth and under your gums, using a water jet. You may consider it "a water flosser," so to speak. Although a bit pricey, it might be worth the spending. While regular flossing can be too harsh on sensitive gum tissue, using an oral irrigation is like giving your gums a nice massage therapy.
- Eat foods rich with vitamin C. This vitamin is highly beneficial to those suffering from gum recession, as it helps the body repair and regrow connective tissue. In addition, according to an article by the New York Times, a recent study found that people who consumed less than the recommended daily amount of vitamin C were more likely to develop severe gingivitis.
- Don't munch on sugary snacks. Sugar encourages accumulation of plaque and bacteria on the teeth as well as in the gum pockets. "But I brush every day!" you may argue. The truth is good brushing isn't always adequate. Plus, most people can't practically brush their teeth after every single time they eat something sweet. Curbing your sugar consumption is the way to go.
- Quit smoking. Doing so will improve not only your gum condition but also your overall health.
- Consider switching from oral contraceptives to other methods of birth control. This may sound strange, but the hormones in your birth-control pills can indeed be the cause of hormonal gingivitis, which could eventually lead to gum recession. If you suspect your contraceptives could be the culprit of your gum problems, discuss it with your physician right away.
- Consider gum grafting. Sometimes a dentist or periodontist may recommend a gum tissue graft, which is an oral surgery meant to treat severe gum recession as well as improve the appearance of your smile. There are several types of gum grafting, but typically, the procedure involves removing some tissue from the roof of your mouth and stitching it to the gum tissue around the exposed tooth roots.
© 2013 Om Paramapoonya
monia ben saad from In my Dream on May 23, 2015:
In fact, information is very important. I did not know the harmful effects of smoking in this way. Well I will be more careful on the existence of toothpaste grass. Thank you for everything
Marcy J. Miller from Arizona on August 15, 2013:
Excellent hub. I'm one of those whom is diligent about my oral hygiene -- I do everything recommended to care for my teeth and gums -- yet as a woman who has suddenly (overnight, I tell you!) found herself to be mid-life, hormonal changes have caused me to have receding gums and periodontal disease. You've offered excellent suggestions.
Best -- MJ
Mary Strain from The Shire on August 15, 2013:
Thanks for the information. I'll have to find some rosemary toothpaste. Interesting!
Donna Herron from USA on August 15, 2013:
Great hub with lots of good information and easy to understand. Unfortunately, I have receding gums that appear to be genetic. I've had one gum graft at 19 and will probably have more as I get older. I think it's important for people AND dental professionals to understand that you can do everything right and still have receding gums. Voted up!
Billie Kelpin from Newport Beach on August 15, 2013:
Very important article. The headings make reading the points fast and easy.
As you get older you really, really appreciate being able to keep all your dental "capabilities" so to speak. Teeth affect everything - your digestion, your looks, your speech, your confidence. Digestion begins in the mouth and digestion is essential to health. If you notice, even older, once handsome and beautiful actors and celebrities, either retain or lose their looks and credibility in large part depending on the state of their teeth
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on August 15, 2013:
I've heard of brushing with rosemary before but sure have not seen any rosemary toothpaste. I do, occasionally, stop in an herb shop. Guess that would be the best place to go. (Must go to the dentist)
Om Paramapoonya (author) on June 24, 2013:
@Ebonny - Thanks for your feedback :)
Ebonny from UK on June 23, 2013:
Thanks for sharing - a very interesting, informative read.
Om Paramapoonya (author) on March 14, 2013:
@Barbara Kay - Glad you've learned something new here, Barbara. Thanks so much for the vote.
@vibesites - You're very welcome. Glad you found these tips and info helpful. By the way, if your gum pain or soreness (no matter how mild it is) happens more than just once in a while, you should consult your dentist about it!
vibesites from United States on March 14, 2013:
Very helpful article, thanks for sharing! Well, I'm a female and I dread having my gums receding, but sometimes I feel a bit of sharp pain in my gums. I hope it's not my irregular hormones, but still I wouldn't rule them out either. Thanks for your valuable tips. Voted up and useful.
Barbara Badder from USA on March 11, 2013:
Good article. I didn't expect to see anything I didn't already know, but did. Voted up.
Om Paramapoonya (author) on March 07, 2013:
@Kathryn Stratford - I hope you get to visit your dentist very soon. In the meantime, some of these tips should be able to help improve your gum health or at least stop your gums from receding too quickly.
Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on March 06, 2013:
These are very handy tips. I have problems with gum recession (particularly above one tooth), despite practicing good oral hygiene. I have been going to the dentist 2 times per year for the past 3 years, although I am in between jobs at the moment, and had to miss my last appointment a few months ago. The first thing I am going to do once I get insurance again is make an appointment!
You have some tips that I will use, and hopefully by the time my next dentist appointment comes, my teeth will be in reasonable condition. The herbal toothpaste suggestion is interesting, as well as the advice about Vitamin C.
Thank you for sharing this information with us.
Om Paramapoonya (author) on March 04, 2013:
@Bake Like a Pro - Glad to hear you've been on the right track. It's not easy to reverse receded gums but it's definitely doable!
Bake Like a Pro on March 03, 2013:
Great hub Om. I have this problem for some time now and have spent a lot of money treating it too. I have been doing all the things you listed so I am on the right track. I never tried herbal toothpaste or oral irrigation. I will look into them. Thank you.
Om Paramapoonya (author) on February 28, 2013:
@lindacee - Hi, Linda! Wearing a night mouth guard might help. I'm not sure how comfortable your mouth would feel, though. I've never worn one myself.
Linda Chechar from Arizona on February 22, 2013:
It's so funny you mention aggressive brushing as a possible cause for receding gums. That was quite the norm for a number of years and dentists also recommended using a firm bristle toothbrush. No wonder our gums are a mess! Anyway, this is an informative Hub for those of us with this problem. I'm a nighttime clencher and have reached the age that receding has become more of an issue. Regular dental/periodontal visits and your tips will hopefully keep the gum grafts away! :)
Om Paramapoonya (author) on February 22, 2013:
@Emma Harvey - I agree! An oral irrigator sounds much more gum-friendly than flossing. I've never tried it but would love to buy one some day.
@prasetio - Thanks for reading and commenting, Pras. So glad to hear from you.
@ComfortB - Actually, overaggressive brushing, using a hard toothbrush, and even habitual teeth clenching could all lead to gum recession. But these little things are usually not the main factors, unlike those mentioned above.
@Patty Inglish - Thanks for your kind words, Patty!
@peachpurple - Sorry to hear that. I'm pretty sure your condition can be rectified, though. Talk to your periodontist about it. If your gum recession is very severe, maybe you'll need gum grafting.
@akirchner - Yeah, I think smoking is bad for every single part of our body! I'm glad I quit years ago.
Audrey Kirchner from Washington on February 22, 2013:
Very interesting information, Om--I didn't know that about smoking...another thing I can talk to my son about!! Oh joy...he is a little tired of my lectures but it couldn't hooit~
peachy from Home Sweet Home on February 22, 2013:
Well written hub. I have receding gums for ages. Couldn't rectify it now. Wish this hub was published years ago... Sigh...Anyway, thanks.
Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 21, 2013:
Very good information, excellent illustrations and great layout. This could be a handout for dentists' offices.
Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on February 21, 2013:
I've always taught receding gum was a result of brushing too hard. Goes to prove that we learn something everyday. Great hub with very useful tips.
Voted up and useful.
prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on February 21, 2013:
Very informative hub. I learn many things here and I am glad to follow you. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!
Emma Kisby from Berkshire, UK on February 21, 2013:
Great hub - I try my best to look after my teeth, but my gums do seem to be shrinking a little! I don't smoke or anything, so it could be down to genes. I love the idea of an oral irrigator - never heard of that before. Sounds nicer than flossing!