BACKGROUND Multiple recession defects can be successfully treated using envelope-type coronally advanced flaps. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the long-term (5 years) stability of clinical outcomes achieved with the surgery and the association between patient variables and long-term stability. METHODS Seventy-three Miller Class I and II gingival recessions affecting 22 young, systemically healthy subjects were treated with coronally advanced flaps with no releasing incisions. All patients were instructed to perform a coronally directed roll technique to minimize the toothbrushing trauma to the gingival margin. The clinical reevaluation was made 1 year after the surgery. At this point, 13 patients took part in a supportive periodontal care program consisting of oral hygiene instructions, control of toothbrushing technique, and professional tooth cleaning every 4 months. The remaining nine patients did not participate and received only sporadic care by general dentists. At 5 years post-surgery, all patients were reexamined. RESULTS At the 5-year examination, 94% of the root surfaces initially exposed due to gingival recession were still covered with soft tissue, and 85% of the treated recession defects showed complete coverage. Complete root coverage in all recessions was maintained in 15 out of 22 patients (68%). The long-term stability of the soft-tissue margin in the treated sites was significantly influenced by the patient's regular participation in the recall program and the susceptibility to gingival recession in other areas of the mouth. A statistically significant increase of keratinized tissue (0.80 +/- 0.64 mm) was observed between the 1- and 5-year observation visits, and the average increase of keratinized tissue between the baseline and the 5-year follow-up amounted to 1.38 +/- 0.90 mm. This increase was significantly affected by the baseline keratinized tissue (KT) and recession (REC) depth: in particular, the 5-year increase in the amount of keratinized tissue was greater in sites with a greater recession depth and lower amount of keratinized tissue at baseline. CONCLUSIONS 1) The successful root coverage results obtained with the coronally advanced flap for multiple recession defects were well maintained over the 4-year observation period. 2) Negative patient characteristics such as a lack of compliance with a supportive care program and individual susceptibility to gingival recession were significantly associated with the recurrence in gingival recession. 3) The increase in keratinized tissue height that followed the coronally advanced flap procedure may be attributed to the tendency of the mucogingival line to regain its genetically determined position.