Gum recession is a common but uncomfortable oral health condition. People with receding gums may experience teeth sensitivity, loose teeth, bad breath, and more. If you have receding gums, you have probably wondered if they can heal over time. The answer may surprise you!
In this article we cover what causes gum recession, if reversing gum recession is possible, and treatment possibilities.
What causes receding gums?
Gum recession is caused by many things including:
- Aggressive brushing
- Past orthodontic treatments such as braces
- Tobacco use
- Mouth piercings
- Gum disease
One of the main culprits of gum recession is gum disease. When plaque is not removed, the bacteria in it irritates and inflames the gum tissue. The protective tissue that holds teeth in place becomes compromised. Eventually, the inflammatory response can cause puffiness, redness, and swelling that destroy the gum tissues. This causes spaces around the gum tissue called “pockets” to form. These pockets make room for even more bacteria, making the infection worse.
If gum disease isn’t treated and gets worse, it can lead to what is called periodontitis. When gum disease gets this bad, your dentist may refer you to a special dentist called a “periodontist.”
In advanced stages of periodontitis, the gums can’t keep teeth in place, causing them to become loose, fall out, or require removal by a dentist. The good news is that your dentist and periodontist can help prevent this and help you choose the best daily oral health care routine.
Can receding gums grow back naturally?
Unfortunately, receding gums cannot grow back naturally. This is because the gum tissue is not able to regenerate like other tissues in the body. Once damage is done to the gums it cannot be reversed. However, there are things you can do to stop the problem from worsening and treatments available for severe cases.
Treatments for receding gums
The type of treatment needed to correct gum recession will depend on the severity of the condition. Your dentist will help you determine which treatment is right for you.
Scaling and root planing: Your dentist or hygienist will carefully use special tools to remove plaque and tartar that is gathered above and below the gum line. They may use a manual scaler or an ultrasonic instrument. This is known as “scaling” or “deep scaling.”
If damaged tissue is present, the dentist or hygienist may also remove that to help with the healing process. After they have cleaned the gum line thoroughly and removed infection-causing bacteria, they will move on to the final step, which is called root planing.
Root planing smooths out your tooth’s root surface. The procedure also aids in the healing process, making it easier for healthy gum tissue to reattach easily.
Drug therapy: Short courses of oral antibiotics, as well as antibiotic and antiseptic medications applied directly to the gums, can reduce bacteria and inflammation.
Surgery: In severe cases of gum recession a gum graft surgery may be necessary. During this procedure a periodontist will use tissue from your mouth or from a donor to replace the recessed gum tissue. The new tissue is stitched to the existing gums and heals over a couple of weeks.
Preventing gum recession after treatment
Maintenance is key. After any initial treatment, plaque levels must be kept low to avoid a resurgence of the disease. For most people a good after-treatment plan includes visiting the dentist or hygienist every three months, brushing, and flossing, and using an antimicrobial mouth rinse.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of gum recession or haven’t been to the dentist in a while, click here to find one near you.
*Updated January 2023