10 Causes of Receding Gums

by Jacqueline Ho Content Producer

Over time, you might notice that your gum line is receding, leaving more of your teeth exposed. While receding gums is not always a reason to worry, it is a good idea to understand its potential causes in order to prevent further gum recession and so that you can discuss possible treatment options with your dentist.

Periodontal diseases

Receding gums could be an early sign of periodontal disease—an infection that destroys the gum tissue and bone that hold your teeth in place. Periodontal disease is also known as gum disease and is the most common cause of receding gums. Other symptoms of gum disease include persistent bad breath, swollen gums and sensitive teeth.


Studies have shown gum recession to be caused in part by genetics. People may be predisposed to developing chronic gum recession from gum disease or misalignment if their parents had the condition. Parents can also pass on bacteria to their children, which can contribute to gum recession and other dental problems.

You’re not brushing enough

The best and easiest way to avoid gum recession is to take measures to prevent it and the best way to do that is to maintain proper oral hygiene. This means making sure you brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss daily and see your dentist on a regular basis.

You’re brushing too hard

While it is important to brush your teeth regularly, it is also important to make sure you are brushing your teeth correctly. Part of this includes avoiding brushing your teeth too aggressively or vigorously. If you brush too hard, especially with a stiff-bristled toothbrush, it may cause your gum tissue to recede down the surface of your teeth and can also wear down enamel.


Women should be aware that fluctuations in their hormone levels may make gums more sensitive and more susceptible to gum recession. Such hormonal fluctuations may occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause, so women should speak with their dentists about potential risks.


Tobacco products—both smoking and smokeless tobacco—can cause severe gum recession. Smoking can cause gum tissue to lose blood supplies, which can lead to gum infections and gum tissue loss. Smokeless tobacco can cause chronic gum irritation. Tobacco products also cause more plaque buildup, which can cause gum recession.

The way you sleep

Your dentist will be able to tell you whether you grind your teeth at night, even if you don't know that you do. Grinding your teeth is a potentially harmful habit as it can place excessive force on the teeth, causing gums to recede. If you do grind your teeth, your dentist will likely recommend that you wear a mouth guard at night.

Your smile’s not straight

If you have one or two teeth that are crooked, those teeth are more likely to become susceptible to gum recession than are your straight teeth. A misaligned smile can also cause gum tissues to be pulled in the wrong direction and can cause excess tartar buildup, leading to gum recession.

Body piercings

If you have a lip or tongue piercing, you may be more at risk for gum recession. If the piercing becomes irritated, it can cause gum tissue to shift out of place over time. The rubbing of the piercing against gum tissue can also cause gradual damage, even if there is no apparent discomfort or pain.


Experts have found that people with diabetes are more likely to develop oral health problems, including gum disease, gingivitis or periodontitis. People with diabetes may also have a lower ability to fight bacteria that cause gum disease, which makes preventive measures even more important.

Jacqueline Ho
Meet Our Writer
Jacqueline Ho

Jacqueline is a former content producer for HealthCentral. She is a multimedia journalist with a bachelor's degree in English Literature and a master's in Broadcast Journalism and Public Affairs.