Receding gum treatment: How to stop gum recession from worsening

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The thought of receding gums can be worrying. Yet, the right knowledge and preventative measures can help keep gums healthy and prevent further recession. The most important step is to practise good oral hygiene. Read on to find out if you’re brushing your teeth properly. Plus, learn the signs that may signal worsening recession.

Firstly, what happens when gums recede?

Gums provide a seal around the teeth, offering a foundation and support for healthy tooth roots. They also serve as a barrier, protecting the teeth from harmful bacteria, which can cause inflammation and other health issues. 

Build up of bacterial plaque deposits results in chronic inflammation. This is called gingivitis, or in progressive cases—periodontitis—and can lead to gum recession. Trauma or injury to the gums can also result in inflammation, which in certain people can lead to gum recession.

When gums recede, often the firm resilient ‘gingiva’ around teeth is lost, leaving the more delicate and friable oral mucosa. This ‘oral mucosa’ is not so good at providing an effective seal against infection and can become inflamed more easily. Also, oral mucosa can become sore when brushing it, leading to less effective brushing. This only exacerbates the problem.

Caring for gums to prevent further recession

Good oral hygiene can help to keep the gums healthy and prevent the condition from worsening. This includes:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day 
  • Using a soft-bristled toothbrush 
  • Daily flossing or interdental cleaning
  • Using the proper brushing technique 
  • Consider using an electric toothbrush

Proper brushing technique 

A professional teeth clean leaves teeth perfectly polished and your breath fresh. You don’t get the same feeling when brushing your teeth at home. Yes, a dental hygienist has the right tools for the job, which helps to clean those hard-to-reach places. But it may also be that many of us don’t use the right brushing technique. Here’s the best way to brush your teeth.

  • Aim the bristles of your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle toward the gum. This is where the gums meet the teeth and is where plaque and calculus collect.
  • Gently move the toothbrush back and forth in short circular strokes.
  • Make sure you brush all three surfaces of the tooth—outer, inner and chewing surfaces.
  • To clean the inside surface of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make small back-and-forth strokes.
  • Be gentle (but thorough), pressing too hard can wear away enamel and further damage your gums.
  • Brush for at least two minutes. Divide the time among the upper left, upper right, lower left, and lower right teeth — 30 seconds per section.

It is important to maintain good technique, even in areas with gum recession. Lack of effective brushing can worsen gum recession.

When to worry?

Make an appointment to see your dentist or periodontist if:

  • If you notice your gum recession is worsening
  • Your gums bleed when brushing or flossing
  • It hurts or is uncomfortable to brush or floss your teeth
  • You are afraid to brush your teeth normally because of gum recession

Photo of a young woman exposing her gum recession.
If you notice that your gums bleed when brushing/flossing, or it has become painful or uncomfortable to brush/floss your teeth, you should make an appointment to see your dentist or periodontist straight away.

Receding gum treatment 

Treatment is always directed at the cause of gum recession. If the gum recession is related to an anatomical problem (thin gums) then it is usually ‘self-limiting’. This means that it won’t progress beyond a certain point. In these situations, no treatment is required unless the gum recession impedes or makes home oral hygiene difficult. 

The key factor here is that if gum health can be maintained, then no further treatment is needed, even in advanced cases of gum recession. But often, gum recession can hinder plaque removal because the process is uncomfortable. In other words, it’s hard to brush your teeth when your gums are sore. In these situations, your periodontist can help with a tailored oral hygiene regimen or even a gum graft.

Gum graft

Tissue is removed from another part of the mouth and attached to the affected area. Covering the exposed roots can help reduce sensitivity and improve the appearance of the gums. But the main benefit of a gum graft is to simplify oral hygiene procedures, enabling you to maintain good gum health every day. If you can keep your teeth clean, you are much less likely to have dental problems.

Yet, if your gum recession is caused by periodontitis (gum disease), you will require periodontal therapy (sometimes referred to as ‘deep cleaning’).

Illustration of a healthy tooth and gum vs periodontitis.
Periodontitis is a chronic disease that can cause gum recession and requires a long term approach to management.

Deep cleaning

This is an intensive deep cleaning procedure that uses special instruments to remove plaque and tartar from the teeth and roots. Periodontitis is a chronic disease, requiring a long term approach to management. 

Final thought…

Diagnosing and treating receding gums early is important. It may help avoid more invasive gum recession treatment. In most cases of mild gum recession, improved oral hygiene is all that’s needed.

However, some people may stop brushing their teeth out of fear it will cause the gums to recede further. Theoretically, brushing too hard or too much is a cause of gum recession. Yet, ineffective brushing is far more likely to result in gum recession.

Even in cases of mild gum recession, stick to regular check-ups with your dentist or periodontist. This will help identify and address any issues promptly. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to check and, if need be, brush up on your teeth cleaning technique.

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