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Link between tooth brushing and gum problems not proven

John Gunsolley DDS, MS


Systematic Review Author(s)

Rajapakse PS, McCracken GI, Gwynnett E, Steen ND, Guentsch A, Heasman PA

Summary Title

Inconclusive evidence for tooth brushing-gingival recession link




Key terms

Gingival: having to do with your gums

Recede, recession: in this case, it’s the pulling away of the gums from the teeth, causing the gums to move away from the biting surface of the tooth toward the tooth root

Healthy gums fit snugly around your teeth. Along with ligaments and bone, they hold your teeth in place.  Sometimes, however, the gum tissue recedes.  The authors analyzed 18 studies to see whether tooth brushing or factors related to tooth brushing can cause this gingival recession.

Auhtors' findings
There were mixed results.  One study associated frequent brushing with improvements in the gum line; others found that frequent brushing increased the likelihood that the gums would recede.  Brushing force, duration, bristle hardness and brushing technique also seemed to be associated with gingival recession.  The authors also found that key information—like how study participants were chosen or how data were analyzed—was missing from the published articles, which is a weakness.


There may be a connection between the way people brush or other factors related to brushing and receding gums, but it is not clear.  The available studies had mixed results and/or were missing details that prevented the review authors from making any firm decisions about an association.  


Does the way a person brushes his or her teeth play a role in gums that pull away from the teeth (recede)?


It is not clear whether there is a connection between the way people brush or other factors related to brushing and receding gums.  The available studies had some weaknesses and did not agree in their results.