Receding Gums: How We Diagnose and Treat It

Gum recession is a common dental condition in which the gum tissue surrounding the teeth either wears away or recedes back. Receding gums expose more of the tooth, including the root. Several problems can result from gums receding, including tooth sensitivity, loose teeth, and gum disease caused by bacteria building up in the pockets exposed between the teeth and gum line.

Receding gums become increasingly likely as we get older. About 40 percent of people in their 30s have gum recession. This rises to 70 percent of people in their 50s and 90 percent in their 80s. As a result, patients at Brighton Dental Suite often ask questions about how to stop receding gums.

Gum recession can result in serious damage, including infections, tooth decay and even tooth loss. It is not a condition that can be reversed, but there are treatments available to stop it from getting worse and even to repair the receding gum.

Treating patient with visible gum line recession in Brisbane, QLD

Why Do Gums Recede

Many contributory factors can result in receding gums. The most common direct cause is gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. Bacterial infections can destroy gum tissue, leading to gum recession.

But what causes gum disease? Whilst it is mainly associated with poor dental hygiene, in many cases, genetic disposition predisposition plays a role. About a third of the population is predisposed to gum disease. If you fall within that third, some level of receding gums is almost inevitable sooner or later.

Having said that, poor dental care certainly increases the likelihood of gum disease and recession. If you do not brush and floss regularly, plaque will turn into tartar, increasing the risk of receding gums.

Brushing your teeth incorrectly or too vigorously can wear away the tooth enamel and cause gum recession. If in doubt, speak to your dentist or hygienist at Brighton Dental Suite for tips on safe and effective brushing. You are never too old to improve your technique.

Personal habits can also increase the risk of receding gums. Smoking or vaping tobacco products can harm the gums and increase the propensity for sticky plaque to form. Bruxism, or grinding teeth, is also likely to cause gums to recede. Piercings in the lip or tongue also present a higher risk, as they can cause irritation and even wear away the gum.

Symptoms of Receding Gums

Receding gums become increasingly likely as we age, and by their mid-40s, the majority of people have some degree of gum recession. The trouble is that receding gums often go unnoticed in the early stages, and significant symptoms only become manifest when the problem is at an advanced stage. 

The sooner a problem is identified, the easier and less invasive the gum recession treatment will be. This is why regular checkups are so important, as the dentist can spot the early signs of receding gums before you notice anything is amiss. 

If you have not had a check-up lately, we recommend doing so. The following are common symptoms that indicate gum recession is well underway:

  • Sensitivity to very cold or hot food and drink increases with gum recession. This happens when the tooth roots are exposed, which are not protected by enamel like the main part of the tooth.
  • Teeth appear to be longer or more spaced out than they used to be
  • Bleeding gums
  • Tooth decay
  • Bad breath 
  • Teeth becoming loose or falling out.

Remember, these symptoms are indicative that gum recession is at an advanced stage. Mild gum recession is hard to notice, except by a dentist during a routine check-up. 

Receding Gum Treatment Alternatives

If caught early, mild gum recession can be arrested by the dentist or hygienist cleaning and descaling and then reviewing your dental hygiene routine. This will not reverse gum recession, but it will help prevent it from worsening, meaning there is less chance of those more serious symptoms manifesting. 

If the gum recession is more serious, there are surgical options that can be explored. These will not reverse the process, but they can repair the damage, ease the symptoms and prevent the condition from worsening. There are three different surgical treatments for receding gums that the dentist might discuss with you.

  1. Open flap scaling and root planing is a procedure in which the periodontist peels back the damaged gum tissue, removes the bacteria and then reattaches the gum tissue over the tooth root. 
  2. A soft tissue graft uses tissue from either the area around the gum or sometimes from the roof of the mouth to replace the lost gum tissue, thereby protecting the root and holding the teeth more firmly in place.
  3. Regeneration is an option in the most severe cases when gum recession has also damaged the bone that supports your teeth. The process starts with open flap scaling and root planing, as described above, but in addition, regenerative material such as a membrane or tissue-stimulating protein is applied to encourage the body to naturally regenerate the damaged bone and tissue before the gum tissue is secured back in place. 

These receding gums treatment alternatives can be highly effective, but none are trivial. As is the case with every dental condition, prevention is better than cure. 

How Do You Stop Gums From Receding?

So, how can you stop gums from receding, especially given that you might be among the thirty percent or so who have a genetic predisposition to gum disease? It’s true that nothing guarantees the prevention of receding gums, but take the right measures, and you can stack the odds in your favour.

The single most important thing is to follow a good oral hygiene routine. Brush and floss your teeth every day,  and be sure to keep those regular appointments for check-ups and descaling. Not only will this reduce the chances of gum disease taking hold, but it also means the dentist has a chance to spot the early signs.

You can also reduce the chances of gum recession by giving up smoking or vaping, eating a healthy, balanced diet, paying attention to your teeth and gums, and looking out for any changes or potential symptoms of receding gums.

If you feel this isn’t the dental condition for you, you might have other oral health concerns that are more suitable. 

Schedule an Appointment Today

Are your teeth starting to appear larger? Perhaps you might be experiencing gum recession? Contact us today to arrange a consultation. We’re providers with Medibank, HCF, and MDF. You can claim your health fund rebate on the spot with our HICAPS machine.

* Any invasive or surgical procedure may carry risks. Before moving forward, it is recommended that you seek a second opinion from an appropriately licensed medical professional.

Common Questions about Gum Recession

Can You Fix Receding Gums?

Gum recession cannot be reversed, but there are treatment options to ease the symptoms, repair the damage and prevent the condition from worsening. The type of treatment depends on how advanced the gum recession has become.


How Do You Brush Receding Gums?

Use a soft toothbrush and hold it at a 45-degree angle along the gum line. This will help ensure you clean within the crevices where bacteria and plaque can build up. Your dentist or hygienist will be pleased to show you the ideal brushing technique.

How Do I Stop Receding Gums From Getting Worse?

The most important thing is to brush and floss properly twice each day. Use a soft toothbrush and take care to brush carefully but not to apply too much pressure.

Is An Electric Toothbrush Bad for Receding Gums?

The brushing technique and the softness of the bristles are more important than the type of toothbrush. As long as you use it properly, a power toothbrush can be more efficient at removing bacteria than a manual one. 

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