Receding gums are a real problem for many – and not just for aesthetic reasons. The hard enamel covering the visible part of your teeth doesn’t extend to the roots. Those are covered by a much softer, permeable material called cementum – softer even than dentin, the delicate tissue that the enamel protects. As the gums recede, cementum is exposed and is rapidly worn away, exposing the dentin. The result is painful tooth sensitivity to sweetness, temperature changes or pressure, as well as a higher risk of caries (cavities) on the root.

Gum recession can result from gum disease, as well as clenching and grinding habits, improper occlusion (how your teeth come together) and any other number of factors. Even incorrect or overzealous cleaning techniques can play a role.

So what to do about it?

If dental hygiene is the main cause, the first thing you want to do is correct any problems so as not to aggravate the situation. You can read about the recommended home cleaning tools and how to use them in this previous post. (Yes, tools. Plural. When it comes to dental hygiene, just brushing isn’t enough.)

If you use a Water Pik or other irrigator, you can add herbal medicament to the water that help support healthy gums. (The one we recommend is Under the Gums from the Dental Herb Co., which you can buy through our office or directly from the company.) Using an irrigator not only cleans but stimulates the soft tissues. Gently massaging the gums with a rubber tip can also be helpful.

That said, because there are other factors that can contribute to gum recession, you should consult your dentist to determine the root cause. If you just treat the recession alone, you’ll only wind up causing the problem all over again, necessitating further treatment.

With a holistic or biological dentist, treatment may begin with developing a personal and specific nutritional plan to create optimum biochemical balance. Understanding your particular dental situation, they may also be able to recommend specific supplements and remedies to further support tissue growth and health. To locate such a dentist in your geographic area, visit the referrals pages of the Holistic Dental Association, the IAOMT or the IABDM.

In severe or advanced cases of recession, a dentist or periodontist may recommend soft tissue grafts. Typically, a dentist or oral surgeon does these by using tissue from the roof of your mouth (though some dentists will use freeze-dried tissue or synthetic fibers), assuring compatibility. Though this may sound a little intense, from the patient’s perspective, it’s a painless and easy procedure. This article (PDF) gives a good overview of the treatment, as well as some nice before and after images.

The most important thing, though, is to not do nothing. Gum recession is reversible, and – as with any problem – the earlier you deal with it, the better the results.


0 responses to “What to Do for Receding Gums”

  1. ema says:

    my gums have started receeding within the past week! they lok exactly like what is on the picture above, can this be reversable and how long does take ???

    • In general, yes, gum recession can be treated and reversed. The specific treatment – and thus, the time involved – depends on the cause and severity. We encourage you to talk with your dentist about the recession you’re experiencing, have him or her take a look at it. Your dentist may refer you to a specialist called a “periodontist” – a dentist who specializes in treating the gums and who may recommend tissue grafts to correct the problem. If you’ve not done so already, check out the brief article we link to in the next to last paragraph above. It explains the procedure and includes some excellent before and after photos. It’s important to remember, though, that if the cause isn’t treated as well – periodontal disease, for instance, or a clenching and grinding habit – grafts will only be a temporary fix. Your dentist can, of course, help you with these things, as well. Good luck to you! And thanks for stopping by!

  2. Ronnie says:

    I haven’t had a Dentist since I was a child, due to lack of Healthcare. I wish I did have a Dentist, I hate the fact that whenever something is wrong with my teeth I have to try to figure out the cause myself, or using the internet.

  3. Ronnie says:

    Two of my teeth look like the one in the picture above, and it can be painful at the root at times. Are there any simple solutions to getting some relief (minus, of course, just seeing a dentist)? Something I can do to lessen the rate at which it is happening?

    My best guess, based on what I’ve read on several websites, is that overly-vigorous brushing is one of the main causes, and when I sleep I grind my teeth sometimes. I’m going to be much more careful how I brush my teeth — that I’m thorough, while not causing damage to my gums. Aesthetically it’s really not that terrible, and I already have preexisting sensitivity in my teeth so I’m used to sensitivity as is… I just want some advice on how best to take care of the condition so it doesn’t worsten.

    Thank you.

    • The kind of grinding you mention can also contribute to gum recession, in which case a splint/night guard may help. While there are some over-the-counter guards available, it’s best to have a dentist fit you for one, especially if your grinding habit is severe. (Custom fit helps ensure the splint will be comfortable, effective and long lasting.) Between that and following the hygiene tips mentioned above, you may get some relief. But one thing to keep in mind is that exposed root means the tooth is more vulnerable to decay, so excellent hygiene is a must – not just brushing, but flossing and using additional tools such as proxy brushes or oral irrigators.

      While dental visits now may seem expensive, delaying treatment is apt to make it even more expensive. This post includes some tips for dealing with the cost factor.


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