Can a dentist fix my receding gums?

What are receding gums?

Receding gums, also known as gingival recession, is when the gum tissue around the teeth pulls back and exposes more of the tooth surface. This can lead to tooth sensitivity and increased risk of tooth decay. Receding gums are very common, affecting about half of adults over 30 years old.

Some common causes of receding gums include:

  • Periodontal disease – bacterial infection of the gums
  • Aggressive brushing – overly hard tooth brushing
  • Smoking
  • Hormonal changes
  • Grinding or clenching teeth
  • Genetics

Receding gums are usually not reversible once they have receded. However, there are treatments available to help prevent further recession and protect the exposed tooth roots.

Can receding gums grow back?

Unfortunately, receding gums cannot grow back once they have receded. The gum recession exposes the tooth roots, which do not have a layer of enamel to protect them like the tooth crown. This makes the exposed roots even more prone to decay and sensitivity.

While receding gums won’t grow back, there are treatments available to prevent further recession. Catching receding gums early and addressing the cause can help stop them from getting worse. But the gum tissue itself cannot be restored or regrown once it recedes.

What are the treatment options for receding gums?

Some of the main treatment options for receding gums include:

Improved oral hygiene

Practicing good oral hygiene is essential for managing receding gums. This includes brushing twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush and using proper technique – gently massaging the gums rather than scrubbing hard. Flossing daily and using antimicrobial mouthwash can also help reduce gum inflammation and recession.

Quit smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor for receding gums. Quitting smoking can help slow down further recession.

Gum graft surgery

Gum grafting involves taking tissue from the roof of the mouth or another donor source and stitching it over the exposed tooth roots. This can help provide protection for roots and prevent further recession. However, it cannot restore lost gum tissue.

Pinhole surgical technique

This minimally invasive procedure involves making tiny pinhole incisions in the gum tissue and loosening it so it can be laid over exposed roots. It causes less discomfort than conventional grafting.


Prescription antimicrobial mouthrinses or gels that disrupt bacterial biofilms can help reduce infection and inflammation. These may be prescribed to use in addition to diligent oral hygiene.

Splinting loose teeth

For teeth that have become loose due to gum recession, stabilizing splints can be bonded to the back surfaces to provide support.

Root surface desensitization

Exposed root surfaces can be treated with topical agents to numb sensitivity and seal off microscopic channels in the roots. This provides temporary relief only.

When to see a dentist about receding gums

You should see a dentist if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Gums bleeding during brushing and flossing
  • Gum redness and inflammation
  • Increasing tooth sensitivity, especially to cold
  • Tooth roots becoming visible
  • Halitosis (bad breath) that won’t resolve
  • Pain or abscesses in the gums
  • Teeth feeling loose or changing position

The dentist can diagnose the cause of your gum recession, provide professional cleaning to remove bacterial plaque, and review treatment options with you. The sooner receding gums are treated, the better the chances of preventing further recession.

Treatments a dentist can provide for receding gums

Here are some of the treatments a dentist may recommend for addressing receding gums:

Deep cleaning

A deep cleaning, also called scaling and root planing, can help remove plaque buildup below the gumline. Local anesthesia is usually used to numb the area being worked on.

Medications or special mouth rinses

Prescription antimicrobial mouthrinses or gels can be used to reduce inflammation and fight bacteria. These include chlorhexidine and doxycycline.

Gum grafting surgery

A gum specialist, called a periodontist, can perform gum grafting to cover exposed roots with tissue from elsewhere in the mouth. This requires suturing and several weeks of healing.

Pinhole surgical technique

Through tiny pinhole incisions, gum tissue can be loosened and positioned over exposed roots without sutures or grafting. The recovery time is much faster.

Occlusal adjustment

Reducing pressure points in the bite, such as by smoothing out irregularities in teeth, can help if gum recession is due to excessive biting forces.

Occlusal guards

Custom night guards can protect the teeth from grinding damage that leads to receding gums. These are worn while sleeping.

Recommend improved oral hygiene

The dentist will provide guidance on properly brushing and flossing to help reduce plaque buildup. Using less forceful pressure is key.

Prognosis for receding gums

With treatment, most cases of mild to moderate gum recession will be stabilized and not worsen significantly. As long as proper oral hygiene is maintained and causes like smoking are addressed, the outlook is good. However, some degree of recession may remain even after treatment.

For more severe gum recession, the success rate of grafting procedures is also favorable. With optimal home care after surgery, the grafts can last for years.

But gum recession that is allowed to progress without treatment can lead to serious problems:

  • Tooth decay in the newly exposed root surfaces
  • Tooth sensitivity or painful stimulation of nerves
  • Tooth mobility and eventual tooth loss
  • Difficulty eating and chewing
  • Aesthetic concerns from shrinking gums

That’s why it’s critical to see a dentist at the first signs of gum recession, as the sooner it is treated, the better the outcome. With early intervention, receding gums can usually be managed successfully.

Steps you can take to prevent receding gums

Some proactive steps you can take to maintain healthy gums and prevent receding include:

  • Brush gently with a soft bristled toothbrush and use proper technique – brushing at a 45 degree angle and avoiding excessive pressure.
  • Floss once daily to remove plaque from between teeth.
  • Use mouthwash to help reduce bacteria and inflammation.
  • Get regular dental cleanings and exams every 6 months.
  • If you smoke, work to quit smoking to protect your oral health.
  • Avoid clenching or grinding teeth to minimize excessive forces.
  • Eat a balanced diet and get sufficient calcium and vitamin C.
  • Drink lots of water to stay hydrated and promote saliva flow.

Practicing excellent oral hygiene and having professional cleanings are the best ways to catch receding gums early and get treatment to prevent it from getting worse. The condition is easier to manage when caught quickly.

When gums can’t be fixed

In some cases of severe, long term gum recession, the damage cannot be reversed. Extensive loss of gum tissue and bone may mean options like grafting cannot be done. Some situations where the gums cannot be fixed include:

  • Chronic periodontal disease with widespread attachment and bone loss
  • Many years of improper brushing or dental neglect
  • Underlying health conditions like uncontrolled diabetes
  • Anatomical factors that increase susceptibility to gum recession
  • Long term smoking and tobacco use

At a certain point, the gum and bone loss becomes too advanced to regenerate the tissues. The best approach then is trying to prevent any further recession and bone loss from occurring.

Even if the gums cannot fully be restored, steps like gum desensitization, medicated mouthrinses, bite adjustment, and preventing infection can help manage dental health and function. But caution is required as the teeth will be at greater risk of problems.

Importance of seeing a dentist for receding gums

It’s critical to see a dentist as soon as you notice signs of receding gums rather than waiting. A dentist can:

  • Confirm if you have gum recession and diagnose the cause
  • Determine the extent of recession based on measurements and X-rays
  • Assess if you have risk factors like periodontal disease
  • Discuss options for preventing further recession
  • Provide professional cleaning above and below the gumline
  • Prescribe medicated mouthrinses if infection is present
  • Refer you to a gum specialist (periodontist) if needed
  • Monitor your condition at regular checkup visits

Early intervention provides the best chance of halting gum recession and preserving your natural teeth. Ignoring receding gums allows the problem to get worse. See a dentist at the first sign something is amiss for optimal outcomes.

Questions to ask your dentist about receding gums

When visiting your dentist about receding gums, some questions to ask include:

  • What is the cause of my gum recession?
  • What treatment options do I have?
  • Will I need gum graft surgery?
  • What can I do at home to manage this condition?
  • Do I need to come back for further treatment?
  • Should I see a gum specialist (periodontist)?
  • How rapidly is my gum recession worsening?
  • Are there any other risk factors I need to address?

Being informed about your specific case of gum recession will help you be proactive about managing it. Ask your dentist any other questions you may have about stopping further recession and protecting your oral health.

Takeaway: Have receding gums evaluated promptly

Receding gums is a common condition where the gum tissue around teeth pulls back, exposing more of the tooth surface and roots. While receding gums won’t grow back, early treatment can help prevent further recession. See a dentist promptly if you notice signs of gum recession. With proper dental care and good oral hygiene, the prognosis for stabilized receding gums is good. But allowing the condition to advance unchecked can lead to serious dental health problems. Addressing receding gums at the first signs is key.

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