Gum Recession And Dental Implants: Everything You Need To Know

gum recession dental implants

Gum recession, or gingival recession as the professionals refer to it, is when the gum tissue shrinks back. It makes the teeth look longer and the patient can suffer sensitivity and pain. Many also find it aesthetically unpleasant. 

Dental implants are artificial teeth surgically implanted in the jaw bone to replace missing teeth. 

There are two questions frequently asked about gum recession and dental implants. These are a) can you have dental implants if you have gum recession and b) can gums recede around dental implants?

The quick answers are that a) gum recession can occur around your original teeth as well as dental implants and b) your suitability for dental implants can be affected by the amount of gum and bone in the area to be fitted with dental implants. 

This post aims to give you more detailed answers to these questions. Read on to find out more. 

What Causes Gum Recession?

There are many causes of gum recession, however, if you have a missing tooth, the gum recession is most likely caused by bone loss. When a tooth and roots are lost, the bone underneath is not stimulated. Bone metabolism shifts and ultimately the bone density decreases. 

As bone density reduces there is nothing to support or give structure to the gum tissue. The gum shrinks back. It recedes. 

Other causes of bone loss and gum recession include

  • Periodontal Disease
  • Osteoporosis

The gums can also be worn away by

  • Brushing too hard
  • A poor technique when brushing and flossing
  • Oral piercings

Some people are predisposed to gum recession by

  • Genetics 
  • Naturally thin, fragile tissue
  • Grinding and clenching teeth (Bruxism)
  • Misaligned or crooked teeth

Poor oral hygiene, smoking, hormones (menopause, pregnancy) and uncontrolled diabetes can result in periodontal disease that as you will have just read can lead to gum recession. 

Can You Have Dental Implants With Receding Gums?

A lack of gum tissue can increase the risk of implant failure so gum recession can negatively affect your suitability for the dental implant procedure. Here’s why.

Dental implants, which function like natural tooth roots, are inserted directly into the jawbone under the gum tissue. An artificial crown is placed on the top. With this in mind, it makes sense that if there is not enough bone or gum tissue the survival of the dental implant could be compromised. 

However, it may be possible to have a soft tissue graft to replace any lost gum tissue. Bone grafts are also possible for those with gum recession caused by bone loss. 

Treatment for Gum Recession Before Dental Implant Surgery

Depending on the cause of your gum recession several treatments may be required ahead of dental implant treatment. Treatment options include the following.  

Soft Tissue Graft

A gum graft (also referred to as a gingival graft & soft tissue augmentation) to replace the missing gum tissue may be an option. 

There are several different procedures but they all involve using donor tissue to cover the exposed tooth root. Depending on the procedure donor tissue may be taken from the roof of your mouth (palate) or an area of the healthy gum tissue in your mouth. Tissue can also be cultivated from a cadaver, or selected from an assortment of synthetic materials. 

The donor tissue is stitched into place and left to heal for several weeks before dental implant surgery takes place. 

Bone Graft

Donor bone can sometimes be used to replace any missing bone ahead of dental implant procedures.

Gum Disease 

If gum disease is causing gum recession and bone loss, you will need to have treatment to control the gum disease and inflammation before being considered a suitable candidate for dental implant surgery. Did you know that gum disease is predominantly solved at home? Check out our guide to doing this by clicking the banner below.

Beat Gum Disease Now

Gum Recession After Dental Implant Surgery

Whether you have healthy gums or a history of gum recession you’re still at risk of gum recession occurring after dental implant surgery. If the gums recede around the dental implant, the titanium screw is at risk of being exposed. 

Consequences of Untreated Gum Recession on Dental Implants

As dental implants don’t have nerves (they’re made out of metal!), if you develop gum recession it won’t lead to pain or sensitivity. But it can lead to other serious consequences. The receded gum puts you at an increased risk of bone loss, peri-implantitis, implant mobility and even loss of the dental implant. 

Treatment for Gum Recession Near Dental Implant

If you develop gum recession near your dental implant you need to take steps (see below under prevention) to prevent this from getting worse. If you have underlying peri-implantitis or gum disease you need to seek help from a dentist as soon as possible. 

How to Prevent Gum Recession 

Gum recession around dental implants and natural teeth can be prevented with some simple care treatments at home. Self-care treatments include the following.

  • Eat a balanced, nutrient-rich diet low in refined sugars and saturated fats
  • Sip water throughout the day
  • Stop smoking
  • Control diabetes
  • Control clenching and grinding with a mouth guard
  • Prevent periodontal disease and peri-implantitis

These simple steps will have huge positive benefits for your oral health, dental implants as well as general health.

Develop First Class Oral Hygiene

In addition to these steps and possibly the most important step is to develop and maintain oral hygiene which is first class. This includes brushing the teeth twice a day and cleaning the interdental spaces daily using the correct techniques and tools. You can find out more about this here. 

The Gum Pocket Brush has been specially designed by the Gum Disease Guide dentists to allow cleaning into the pockets that can develop around and implant and allow first class hygiene.

You may also be interested in our post on home remedies to dental implant infections.

Beat Gum Disease Now
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Written by Gareth Edwards

Co-Founder & GDG Dentist

Dr. Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons) MFDS (RCPS Glasgow) is GDG Co-Founder and Gum Disease Expert.

He is a practicing dentist based in Bournemouth, UK and has treated thousands of patients with gum-related diseases.

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