Gingival recession in its localized or generalized form is an undesirable condition resulting in root exposure. The result often is not esthetic and may lead to sensitivity and root caries. Exposed root surfaces also are prone to abrasion. The purpose of this article is to describe the prevalence, etiology and factors associated with gingival recession. The authors reviewed cross-sectional epidemiologic studies of gingival recession and found that they correlated the prevalence of recession to trauma, sex, malpositioned teeth, inflammation and tobacco consumption. The recent surveys they reviewed revealed that 88 percent of people 65 years of age and older and 50 percent of people 18 to 64 years of age have one or more sites with recession. The presence and extent of gingival recession also increased with age. More than 50 percent of the population has one or more sites with gingival recession of 1 mm or more. The prevalence of gingival recession was found in patients with both good and poor oral hygiene. It has been proposed that recession is multifactorial, with one type being associated with anatomical factors and another type with physiological or pathological factors. Recession has been found more frequently on buccal surfaces than on other aspects of the teeth. Dentists should be knowledgeable about the etiology, prevalence and associating factors of gingival recession, as well as treatment options, so that appropriate treatment modalities can be offered to patients. Treatments for gingival recession include gingival grafting, guided tissue regeneration and orthodontic therapy. Such treatments typically result in esthetic improvement, elimination of sensitivity and a decreased risk of developing root caries.