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If you think your teeth look longer than they did before, it could be because of your gums. Gum recession occurs for a number of reasons, from brushing your teeth with too much pressure, clenching or grinding your teeth, or from gum disease. Your oral health and care habits, the alignment of your teeth, your lifestyle choices and your genes can all play a part when it comes to receding gums.

Since gum recession can lead to tooth sensitivity and affects the look and health of your smile, you might be wondering, can receding gums grow back? While receding gums don’t grow back on their own, you can talk to your dentist or periodontist about treatments to correct the issue and prevent it from getting worse.

What Happens When Gums Recede?

Your gums are meant to protect your teeth in several ways. The attached gingiva is firmly bound soft tissue that securely connects your teeth to underlying connective tissue to protect your teeth and bone. The unattached gingival mucosa is elastic, movable gum tissue, protecting the insides of your cheeks and gums. The edge of the gum tissue, which surrounds and protects your teeth, is known as the gingival margin. When the margin pulls away from the teeth, it leaves the roots exposed. Your roots are covered with a calcified substance called cementum and are not as calcified as your tooth enamel, which may make them more susceptible to decay. Exposed roots may also result in tooth sensitivity because just under the cementum are nerve endings.

Causes of Gum Recession

  • Poor oral health: According to the American Academy of Periodontology, gum recession may be a sign of periodontal disease. When bacteria in plaque (a sticky, colorless film that forms in the mouth) builds up between the gums and teeth, the gums surrounding your teeth can become inflamed. If left untreated, this inflammation may result in the deterioration of the gums and supporting bone structure. This can lead to gum recession or even tooth loss.
  • Overly aggressive brushing or flossing: It’s great to be enthusiastic about oral care, but make sure you’re brushing, not scrubbing. Over brushing can damage teeth, as well as cause your gums to recede.
  • Genetics: Your gums’ characteristics are determined by your genetics, just like the rest of your body. If either of your parents have gum recession, you may be at a higher risk
  • Abnormal tooth positioning: If your teeth aren’t in alignment or if you have a misaligned bite, gum recession can occur.
  • Grinding and clenching your teeth: Also called bruxism, this habit can cause many dental issues including gum recession, accelerated tooth wear, tooth sensitivity, and in extreme cases, loose teeth and tooth fracture. So, let your dentist know right away if you think you’re grinding your teeth. There are many options, such as wearing a mouth guard while you sleep, to help prevent or treat these habits.
  • Trauma to gum tissue: The gum tissue might recede when a traumatic injury has occurred to the gums or teeth around it.
  • Using tobacco: According to the CDC, smoking and tobacco use increases your risk for receding gums. Give up this habit to help protect your gums.

Receding Gums Treatment Options

Do receding gums grow back? Unfortunately, no. Once the gum tissue has pulled back and away from the teeth, it’s gone for good. However, there are options for treating gum recession.

See your dentist for an evaluation to determine the cause of your gum recession and whether treatment is recommended. Your dentist will also recommend measures you can take to prevent further gum recession.

If there is a progressive, noticeable recession, you’re experiencing sensitivity, or you’re not happy with the appearance, your dentist may recommend a gum graft to replace the lost tissue. Gum grafting is a surgical procedure that usually involves taking a small amount of tissue from one area, such as the roof of the mouth, then transferring it to the gum area in need. If you have signs of gum disease, your dentist might first perform a deep cleaning of the teeth to remove any bacteria.

Another method of treating receding gums is known as the pinhole surgical technique, which involves manipulating existing gum tissue over the exposed roots. A study published by the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology found that the technique had a high incidence of success with minimal discomfort and good aesthetic results.

Preventing Further Recession

Good oral care habits, such as brushing twice a day and flossing at least once daily, can also prevent gingival recession. Always use a soft-bristled toothbrush and proper brushing technique to help protect your enamel and gums. This won’t correct the existing recession, but it is part of an oral hygiene program that can help prevent further gum recession.

If your receding gums are due to other concerns, such as crooked teeth or a misaligned bite, talk to your dentist about solving the initial issue to help slow or even stop the recession.

Don’t wait to see your dentist for advice and treatment for gum recession. There are ways to treat the issue to boost your confidence, reduce tooth sensitivity, and improve your oral health.