An Overview of Receding Gums: Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

Open mouth with gingival recession or receding gums

According to the CDC, 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older have some form of gum disease, which is the leading cause of periodontal disease. Receding gums is a process that some people experience in which the margin of the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth wears away or pulls back. As a result, more of the tooth’s root becomes exposed.

When a person is experiencing gum recession, gaps begin to form between the teeth and the gum line. This makes it easier for disease-causing bacteria to build up. If the bacteria isn’t treated, an individual’s bone structure and supporting tissue could become severely damaged, and can eventually result in bone loss.

Symptoms of Receding Gums


When a person has receding gums, they may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Gums that are red and swollen
  • Bleeding after brushing or flossing your teeth
  • Experiencing pain at the gum line
  • Bad breath
  • Gums that are visibly shrinking
  • Exposed teeth roots
  • Teeth that appear loose


Receding gums can be a result of many different factors. If you believe you have receding gums, read on to learn about some of the common causes of gum recession. Some causes of receding gums include:

Periodontal Diseases


Periodontal disease are the leading cause of receding gums in individuals. Periodontal diseases are generally a result of infections and inflammation of the gums, along with the bone that supports the teeth.

woman with bleeding gums due to periodontal gum disease

The early stage of periodontal disease is called gingivitis. When a person has gingivitis, their gums are usually swollen, red, and may bleed. In its more serious form, also known as periodontitis, the gums may begin to pull away from the teeth, bone can be lost, and teeth may even become loose and fall out.



Even those with good oral hygiene and no signs of infection and inflammation can have receding gums due to genetics. According to the American Dental Association, having a family history of periodontal disease is one of the risk factors for someone experiencing a gum recession as well.

With that said, if you have a family history of periodontal disease, then the chances of you having receding gums will increase. If you do have a family history, it’s important to continue your routine dental visits so that your gums can be monitored.

Aggressive Tooth Brushing


Woman brushing teeth very hard

You might assume that aggressive tooth brushing is the best way to get rid of bacteria on the teeth, but brushing too hard is actually another cause of gum recession. Brushing your teeth too hard the wrong way will begin to wear away your gums and wear down your enamel (thin outer covering of the tooth).

Poor Dental Hygiene

small teeth with cavities

Another cause of receding gums is having poor dental hygiene. When someone is brushing or flossing inadequately and doesn’t use an antibacterial mouthwash, their risk for gum recession increases. This is because it makes it easier for tartar to build on and around the teeth.

Hormonal Changes

pregnant woman with teddy bear

Women who experience varying hormonal changes can increase their risk of gum recession. Essentially, a woman may go through many changes in her life, some of which include puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. These fluctuations can make the gums more sensitive and vulnerable to gum recession.

Risk Factors

There are certain risk factors that can make an individual more prone to gum recession. Here are a few risk factors to know about.

  • Age: According to studies, older individuals have higher rates of periodontal disease (the leading cause of gum recession)
  • Smoking/Tobacco Use: Those who smoke or use tobacco increase their risk for various health problems, such as cancer, lung disease, and heart disease. But consistently smoking or using tobacco also increases your risk for periodontal disease.
  • Genes: Being genetically susceptible to periodontal disease increases your risk of developing gum recession.
  • Stress: Experiencing too much stress makes it difficult for your body to fight off infections. As a result, this can make a person more prone to periodontal disease.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as oral contraceptives, anti-depressants, heart medicines, and some drugs can increase your risk of gum recession.
  • Clenching/Grinding Your Teeth: Some people have a habit of clenching or grinding their teeth. Engaging in this oral behavior can put too much force on the supporting tissue of the teeth and can accelerate the rate at which periodontal tissues are destroyed.



Gum recession is an oral problem that should be taken seriously. If left untreated, gum recession can cause severe damage and ultimately lead to bone and even tooth loss. However, with the right practices, it’s possible to prevent gum recession from occurring. Here are 4 ways you can combat receding gums.

Proper Oral Hygiene

Couple using dental floss to clean their teeth

Good oral hygiene includes brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily to remove dental plaque between the teeth. Avoid brushing your teeth too hard as this will cause you to wear down your enamel and wear away your gums. Additionally, it’s important to see your dentist or periodontist twice a year or as recommended.

Quit Smoking

man holding cigarette with time to quit smoking jar

Smoking and using tobacco increases the risk of receding gums. Stopping these activities could help you lower your risk and possibly prevent gum recession from occurring.

Adopt a Healthy Diet

Healthy food or paleo diet concept

A healthy diet and oral health go hand-in-hand. A well-balanced and nutritious diet provides your body, bones, teeth, and gums with what it needs to renew tissues and help fight off infections and diseases. With that said, a healthy diet can lower your risk of periodontal disease and promote better oral health overall.

Monitor Oral Health


Monitoring your oral health is an essential part of preventing gum recession. A dentist can pay attention to any changes that may be occurring and provide you with proactive treatment to help stop gum recession in its tracks.

female patient at the dentist getting her gums checked and teeth cleaned

Receding gums is a common problem for many people. But receding gums should never be ignored. If you believe you have gum recession, schedule a visit with Dr. Brayman today. Your oral health is a top priority. Take advantage of our minimally invasive and up-to-date procedures that will provide you with the dental care you deserve.

Dr. Kate Brayman
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