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Home Knowledge CenterReceding Gums: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Receding Gums: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

When your gum tissue begins to wear away, it can expose more of the tooth. This is also referred to as receding gums. While this is a common dental issue, receding gums can lead to bacteria and plaque buildup and possible tooth damage. Learn more about receding gums, how they are diagnosed, and what can be done to treat this dental issue.

What are receding gums?

Receding gums are a type of periodontal disease. It’s also considered to be a progressed form of gingivitis. Receding gums begin with a buildup of plaque within the gums and teeth. As time goes on, this plaque can cause damage to the gums. In severe instances, pockets may form between the teeth and gums, increasing the likelihood of more plaque and bacteria buildup.

What are the causes of receding gums?

There are several factors that can increase your risk of having receding gums, including the following:

Gum disease

Gum disease is the top contributor of receding gums. If you have a condition, such as periodontitis, it can cause destructive gum inflammation and lead to gum recession. You can learn about your personal risk of having gum disease with this Gum Disease Risk Assessment quiz.


If you have a history of smoking using tobacco products, it can cause excessive plaque to build up on the teeth and may lead to gum recession.

Family history of gum disease

Even if you’ve taken good care of your teeth and health, you may be predisposed to gum disease and gum recession if your parents or grandparents had it.

Aggressive brushing

Brushing your teeth too hard for a prolonged period of time can cause the enamel on your teeth to wear away and your gums to recede. Take a look at these tips for brushing your teeth if you’re concerned about your technique.

Hormonal changes in women

Fluctuations in female hormone levels over time can make gums more sensitive and increase your chances of receding gums.

Certain medications

Particular medications can dry out the mouth. When you have insufficient saliva, it can make your gums more susceptible to infections.

Teeth clenching or grinding

If you’ve clenched your teeth or had a habit of grinding them over a prolonged period of time, it can negatively impact your gums as well.

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What are the signs of receding gums?

In order to diagnose you with receding gums, your dentist will examine you for the following signs and symptoms:

  • Bleeding after flossing or brushing
  • Swollen or red gums
  • Bad breath
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Shrinking gum line
  • Loose teeth

What is the treatment for receding gums?

The severity of your receding gums will determine how they are treated. Untreated gum recession can lead to tooth loss as there is no longer enough gum tissue to hold the tooth roots in place.

Deep cleaning

For minor gum recession, your dentist may need to deep clean the affected area. This is also referred to as tooth scaling and root planning. They will carefully remove the plaque and tartar below the gum line. Your dentist will also smooth out the exposed root area to protect it from new bacteria.


In addition, your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics to prevent further infection. This may be used on its own or in combination with other treatments. Potential antibiotics come in the form of gels, oral medications, chips, mouthwashes, or toothpastes.

Do I need surgery for receding gums?

In some cases, gum recession is more severe and will require surgery to treat it. There are multiple types of surgery for gum recession:

Flap surgery

Also known as flap scaling or pocket reduction surgery, this procedure is a more extensive deep cleaning to help remove bacteria and tartar buildup. A periodontist or an oral surgeon will pull back the gums, remove the damaged tissue, and put them back in place more snugly around the teeth.

Soft tissue grafting

This procedure aims to heal the gum tissue. Your periodontist will place a synthetic membrane or piece of soft tissue (likely from the roof of your mouth) to help reinforce the receding gums and stabilize teeth.

Bone grafting

In bone grafting, your dental specialist will use fragments of your own bone, synthetic bone, or donated bone to replace the damaged bone. This allows bone to regrow and hopefully make your teeth more stable again.

What if I have receding gums on one tooth?

Receding gums can affect all or most of your teeth or it can affect one tooth. Your dentist can determine the best treatment for your particular case of gum recession.

How do I prevent receding gums?

The best ways to prevent gum recession are part of standard oral health care:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day
  • Floss once a day
  • Avoid smoking
  • Wear a night-guard if you have a habit of clenching or grinding your teeth
  • See your dentist for regular cleanings and exams

If you have concerns about possible receding gums, you don’t have to wait for your next cleaning to get examined. Be sure to contact your dentist for an appointment right away for your best chance of treating and preventing gum recession.


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This information is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult with your dentist for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations.

Insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company. Product availability may vary by location and plan type and is subject to change. All dental insurance policies contain exclusions and limitations. For costs and details of coverage, review your plan documents or contact a Cigna Healthcare representative. All Cigna Healthcare products and services are provided exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of The Cigna GroupSM Corporation, including Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company and Cigna Dental Health, Inc. In Texas, the Dental plan is known as Cigna Dental Choice, and this plan uses the national Cigna DPPO Advantage network.

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