Common Conditions

What Can I Do About Gum Recession?

Gum recession is a natural part of the aging process, but can be unsightly and cause health problems. Here's how to prevent it.

by Dr. Burhenne

What Can I Do About Gum Recession?

What can I do to slow the progression of my receding gums? Food gets caught in my receding gums, making the situation even worse.

A: Not only is this a tough question to answer, it is a tough dilemma to deal with, since gum recession is irreversible.

There’s an expression, to be long in the tooth, which means you are wise due to your advanced to prevent gum recession

But what this actually means for your mouth is that you have exposed tooth roots due to the gum receding away from the teeth, whether you’re young or old.

This makes teeth sensitive to cold, sugar, and brushing.

Gum recession can also change how your teeth look.

A little background on how the gums work: The gums act like a gasket in a motor, sealing the inside of the engine from the outside.

Over time, this gasket will break down to allow for the loss of compression (as the engine loses power).

In the mouth, the gums act as a seal to prevent food from settling in between the teeth and allowing the bacteria to do more damage to the area in between the teeth and even further down into the spaces between the gums and jawbone.

The spaces in between the teeth open up as the gum recedes allowing food to get trapped.

How Do You Prevent Gum Recession?

Unfortunately, gum recession occurs as we age, no matter what, even in a healthy mouth.

However, recession can get worse and occur sooner with gum disease, grinding your teeth, defective dental work, systemic diseases, crowded teeth and cleaning your teeth too aggressively.

Genetics also plays a role although it is not clear how. Grinding and gum disease are the largest contributors over time to recession. They are both preventable which means you can still be wise without being long in the tooth!

Here’s what you can do to prevent gum recession.

Brush with a high quality toothbrush

Make sure you throw it away often (every 4 weeks for a manual tooth brush and every 3 months for an electric toothbrush head).

By brushing with worn or cheap bristles, you will, with very little effort, scrub away vital tooth structure.

Wear a night guard

If you grind your teeth, have your dentist make you a nightguard and wear it at night while you sleep.

Learn how to brush properly

Many people don’t realize that they are brushing too aggressively, which can promote gum recession. Click here for a video that explains the proper way to brush.

Use a gentle toothpaste that is not too abrasive.

Stay away from acidic foods and drinks

Acids accelerate gum recession. Enamel is more resistant to acid, but dentin in the roots is not.

The root can be dramtically injured in a short peiod of time when exposed to wine, soda, lemonade, orange juice and other acidic substances.

Buffer these acids by drinking a neutral drink (water) alongside the acidic drink. The Europeans always have mineral water with their wines.

Prevent gum disease

Gum disease will guarantee quick and irrreversible gum recession.

Prevent gum disease by flossing and using an electric toothbrush several times a day, preferably after any meal or snack.

See your dentist

Go into the office every 6 months to have your dentist measure the amount of recession to make sure that you are maintaining gum height over the years.

Mark Burhenne DDS

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  1. Thank you doctor. That was informative but it doesn’t cure the problem. Some time ago, someone told me that one can have their dentist fill in the gap between the teeth and gum…………… or cap the teeth?

  2. Donna,
    I wish that was the case. True, a dentist can make “fatter” crowns, but it looks unnatural and perhaps worse. A dentist can make the crowns longer and cover the receded areas, but this makes the teeth look unnaturally long. Some gum surgeons claim they can cover these areas but I have never seen a successful case.
    The best thing you can do right now is arrest the gum recession by following the guidelines above, which include using a gentle toothpaste, preventing gum disease with regular brushing and flossing, wearing a nightguard, and seeing your dentist every six months.

    – dr.b

    • I would like more information about measuring gum height. I have never been to a Dentist that did any kind of gum inspection other than to say, “floss more.” My current Dentist has documented a gum measurement using numbers 1-5 and three numbers on each tooth. So I am hearing 121, 232, 242 or some combination like this. When I ask what the numbers mean, the Dental Hygenist doing the number calling says the numbers show “how tight” the gums are. That doesn’t sound like height so what does the height measurement sound like and how can I understand what my height should be? Height hasn’t been used by my dentist to explain gum receding although the Hygenist blew air at my gums and took pictures showing a small pocket on some of the teeth at their base.

  3. Just finally learning how to floss with my unique dental issues. First Large teeth small mouth and back teeth reach problems for flossing. Improper instruction if poor instruction for string flossing where I can reach. Much dental work and not wanting to disturb it. Just a few for daily issues. And no time, and much stress in my living environment.
    I have finally been given some excellent pointers on flossing an have purchased low cost multiple brushes that ar narrow and I hope soft enough as to be the generic that is the same as a high host marketed item. Now will be looking at toothpaste , safe whitening and mouthwash solutions. Maintenance for this disorganized gal, with what i thought were dental phobias, but really less than patient or well trained dentists, is something i look forward to preserving not only an ‘attractive’ smile , but my overall health. Tx for the posts.

  4. Hello,

    I don’t grind my teeth at night, but I do clench them, which I know is also destructive. Can wearing a sports mouth guard (the kind that you put in boiling water and then mold to your teeth) at night help counter the effects of teeth clenching? Or do you really need a custom-made night guard?


  5. I’ve been brushing with pure baking soda for almost 2 years and now im experiencing gum pain. I have an appt with my dentist in about 5 weeks ( 1st avail appt.) Should I stop brushing with baking soda?

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  7. I’m a 27-year-old with gum recession that is starting to cause fairly odious pain. I have read that gums do not grow back over time, so I’m concerned that even if I continue to take measures to halt further gum recession that I will never be able to have gums that cover over the painful areas. Am I bound to be dealing with pain in my mouth for the rest of my life?

    ~Concerned and a bit scared

  8. Pinhole Surgical Technique by Dr John Chao will reverse even the most severe gum recession. He’s appeared on numerous TV shows from ABC to the doctors. Just google pinhole surgical technique by John Chao and voila. GUM RECESSION IA NOW CURABLE WITHOUT SUCH EXTREME MEASURES AS GUM SURGERY

  9. Oh woe is me – I’m 58 and just realised through reading this & particularly seeing the photos that I’m suffering from gum recession. I’ve also over the last few months developed a quite new problem of a very unpleasant looking orangey/brown staining just between the gap of my teeth and the gum line . As a result I’ve been brushing more intensively with little affect on the stain but no doubt making the gum problem worse?

    I have to admit to being a smoker ( I know …hiss, boo) so this is perhaps the most obvious cause but I’ve been a smoker for years and smoke far less than I used to without this problem of staining so I’m beginning to wonder if it could be attributed to a more recent problem I’ve been having with severe bile / acid reflux during the night. I often wake up with the burning sensation in throat and a horrible taste in my mouth which seems to linger despite brushing snd at times my mouth / tongue seems really sensitive . Just interested to know what you think on this one and if acid could cause such staining which is proving almost impossible to fix? Better still , anyway of removing it?

    Now I’m sure your going to suggest : see your Dentist. As a UK citizen I never expected to have a problem at my age getting my teeth properly cared for due to financial reasons . For most of my life I’ve benefitted from free/ low cost Dental services through our NHS and as a result ( together with goid dental hygiene) until a couple of years ago I had a good set of teeth I was reasonably proud of. Sadly, my old NHS dentist retired , new policies came in making only ’emergency type treatments’ available on NHS and even so you still have to contribute a significant amount . Dental hygiene, cosmetic work and anything deemed not absolutely necessary is to be paid for at private rates which I simply cannot afford. At my age the cost of a private dental plan is also unaffordable.

    Sorry for over long post and kep up the good work!

  10. I had the Chao technique performed on three quadrants. The upper quadrant required a second surgery. It improved the recession somewhat, but it didn’t “cure” it. The periodontist was pleased with my “thicker” gums, but they look just about the same to me. He still wants to “tighten” the upper quadrant with a traditional grafting surgery. So don’t expect miracles from the Chao technique. 🙁

  11. first my wisdom teeth gutted and was painful now it’s my two bottom teeth. they are also loose and trying to come out but my mouth is real painful.can someone please explain to me what to do or how to make it stop.

  12. Pinhole surgery isn’t for everyone it lowered my gums in stead of raising them . This technique is not what they glam it up to be . I was inflamed for months had stitches in the end I went from just alittle gum recession to a lot. Big scam!!

  13. My name is Sai Charan. Iam suffering from Gum resession problem. I met my dentist who preferred me with a treatment of overlapping the recided part of the tooth with dental Cement. I accordingly got treated for eight of my teeth. Is that a correct treatment? Will my gum recession stop now? My teeth are paining now when I chew hard food items. I feel this only after the treatment. Please help me with it.

  14. It’s great to know how to stop gum recession. I’ve heard that is a problem, and I know I brush too hard at night. I’ll make sure to watch how I brush, and keep it soft and smooth.

  15. My dentist hygienist, clean my teeth too hard in one section and now i have gum recession. They refused to accept the fault. She was willing to apply fluoride. But i think it will not help. I remember during scaling and root planning, they apply some type of antiinflammatory gel. or maybe is not customary but is there any high strength gel they can apply. Do you know about this?

  16. I’m really worried.
    Last week i got a bad ulsa at the back of my gums. So i treated it with bonjella and salt water.
    But for the past few days my tooth on the bottom of my gums, at the front, 3 to the left, feels like its loose. Like its starting to fall out.
    I’m 18 so i have all my adult teeth.
    I’m scared my tooth will fall out cuz last time i went to the dentish (about 10 months ago) she said i had been grinding my teeth.
    Now i’m worried thay cuz i havent got a night guard my teeth grinding has resulted in this gum recession.

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