Receding gums: can they grow back?

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The simple answer is no. Receding gums can’t grow back. But if you catch the problem early, you can stop it from getting worse. What’s most important is having the cause of your gum recession properly diagnosed.

Gum recession is common, but it shouldn’t be ignored. Left untreated, it may lead to infection and even tooth loss. Treatment options depend on the diagnosis, because not all gum recession is caused by the same thing.  Here’s everything you need to know about the causes and symptoms, plus (most importantly) how to prevent a receding gum line. 

What is gum recession

Some people may think gum recession is a mild condition and it usually is. But sometimes, it’s a sign  of gum disease (periodontitis). Periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that results in damage to the supporting structures of teeth. Gum recession is one manifestation of this disease process. 

As the collagen fibres that connect the cementum on the tooth root into the socket/gum break down, pockets form between the gum and the tooth. Sometimes, instead of pockets, the gums simply recede.  This may indicate  a more severe stage of gum disease (AKA periodontitis). Without treatment, the tissue and bone structure become damaged. Eventually, this may result in tooth loss.  

However, most of the time, gum recession is a fairly benign and self-limiting problem related to the thickness of the gums, and the position of the tooth within the underlying jaw bone. 

Who’s most at risk of receding gums?

Gum recession (also known as gingival recession) can affect almost anyone. Many people think that it is  linked to years of over-vigorous brushing. The truth is, there’s no scientific evidence to support this, and the idea is not all that plausible. 

People with gum recession tend to fall into two categories:

  1. Those with periodontitis (gum disease)
  2. Those with ‘thin gums’ — some people have ‘thick gums’ that will never recede while other people have ‘thin gums’ that might recede no matter what action is taken.

Dr Edward Ohlrich discusses the health of the patient’s gums during an appointment at EO Perio.
People with gum recession tend to fall into two categories: those with periodontitis (gum disease) or those with ‘thin gums’.

What causes receding gums? 

In most cases, receding gums are a result of periodontitis (gum disease). However, genetics may also play a role.


Periodontitis is the major cause of receding gums. Chronic inflammation damages the supporting structures of the teeth, often leading to bone loss. Gum recession and root exposure is a potential outcome of this disease process. Proper diagnosis will determine whether periodontitis is the underlying cause. 

Genetic or anatomical factors

In certain cases, genetics may be a predisposing factor of gum recession. For instance, some people may have thinner gum tissue, which may increase the risk of gum recession. Where there is decreased bone thickness combined with delicate gingival margin, the chance of gum recession may be higher. 


There is no data to support or refute the belief that over-brushing can lead to gum recession. Yet it’s true to say that if you brush your teeth so hard that they ulcerate from direct  trauma, this might result in an inflammatory process that leads to gum recession. However, ulcers tend to hurt, which is why we feel that this type of problem is relatively rare. Most people find that gum recession is a gradual process, occurring over many years without pain or acute symptoms, which is not consistent with traumatic ulceration.

Poor oral hygiene 

Ironically, because most people assume over-brushing causes gum recession, when it starts to happen, they stop brushing their teeth properly. This only exacerbates the problem. 

You have to keep your teeth clean if you want to prevent gum recession. It is important not to be rough, but you have to be thorough.

What are the symptoms of gum recession?

Usually, gum recession is pretty obvious, and can be the first noticeable symptom of periodontitis (gum disease).  You may think that your teeth have become longer. This isn’t the case. The gum has simply shrunk back to reveal more of the tooth surface.

In some parts of your mouth, you cant see gum recession but other symptoms of gum recession include:

  • Tooth sensitivity, particularly to heat or cold
  • Sensitivity when brushing or flossing
  • A notch or ridge at the gum line

Young lady brushing her teeth and smiling.
Gum recession is usually quite obvious and you may think that your teeth have become longer. This isn’t the case. The gum has simply shrunk back to reveal more of the tooth surface.

How to treat receding gums

Receding gum treatment should always be directed at the cause. If gum recession is caused by gum disease (periodontitis), then it is vital that treatment be directed at treating gum disease (periodontal therapy).

If receding gums is related to an anatomical problem, like ‘thin gums’  or facial structure, then often no treatment is required at all. 

Either way, an accurate  diagnosis is vital. Gum disease (periodontitis) is progressive. If left untreated it can result in tooth loss. As it’s usually a painless condition, the visual sign of gum recession might be the only cue that there is a problem.  

Periodontal therapy 

Commonly referred to as ‘deep cleaning’ (or periodontal debridement), this non-surgical treatment removes plaque and tartar build-up from the surface and roots of the teeth. It also involves detailed instruction and coaching to improve home care techniques to maintain oral hygiene.

Gum graft surgery

Grafting involves taking tissue from another part of the mouth and using it to restore the missing gum tissue. Of course, it needs to be supported with proper oral hygiene.

How to prevent receding gums

Regular brushing and flossing aren’t just good for teeth, good oral hygiene is essential for the health of your gums too. Particularly if receding gums run in the family, it’s important to stay vigilant about your oral health. To help prevent gum recession, make sure you:

  • Brush your teeth twice daily with a soft-bristled electric toothbrush. Avoid brushing side to side across your teeth. Instead use circular motions, so as not to damage your gums.
  • Use floss or interdental brushes to get rid of plaque from in between the teeth.

Regular dental check-ups and professional teeth cleanings are essential.  Your dentist or hygienist can assist you to be more effective in cleaning your teeth. If you already have gum recession, staying on top of your oral hygiene can help prevent the condition from worsening.

Final thought…

Don’t ignore gum recession. Perhaps you’ve been told by your dentist that your gums are receding but, so far, you’ve had no symptoms. It is important to rule out gum disease (periodontitis), because this can result in tooth loss and is harder to treat the worse it gets. Don’t wait until you experience pain or tooth sensitivity. Leaving receding gums untreated could allow the condition to worsen. It’s important to seek diagnosis and rule out periodontitis as the underlying cause.

Make an appointment with your dentist or periodontist to assess your condition. They can advise you on how to protect your oral health and stop the gums receding and becoming a bigger dental problem.  

Been told you have gum disease?

It’s not all doom and gloom. With a periodontist on your side, you can get your oral health back on track.

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