The following dental information pages answers most of
your questions on gums, gingiva, plaque and gum diseases.
What is gingiva (gum) and its function?
The gingiva (gum) is the protective type of skin that is closely adapted
to the necks of the teeth and covers the bone holding the roots of the teeth.
There is a shallow ditch like space that separates the margin of the normal
gingiva from the tooth surface. This space is 2mm in depth and is called
gingival sulcus. It is one of the places that a dentist will carefully examine
to detect the presence of gum disease.
Is the colour of gingiva (gum) same in
The colour of the gingiva is usually coral pink, but it can vary according
to the complexion of the in individual. In general, darker persons have
darker gingiva; but in some individuals there can be excess of pigments
that give the gingiva a brownish tinge.
How is the tooth held in the jaws?
Each tooth consists of two parts (a) the crown - that can be seen in
the mouth of the person and (b) the root that is enclosed within the bone
and the gingiva. The tooth is not directly attached to the bone, for there
is a thin, elastic and fibrous tissue between them called the periodontal
ligament, which attaches the tooth to the surrounding bone. When the tooth
is used for biting or chewing, the periodontal ligament acts like a cushion
and prevents the biting or chewing force to be directly transferred to
the jaw bone. The gingiva, periodontal ligament and the bone that encloses
the roots of the teeth are collectively referred to as periodontal tissue.
Who is a Periodontist?
A Periodontist is a specialist trained in the care of (periodontal tissues)
gums and other tissues that support the teeth. Periodontists have years
of extra schooling and experience that allow them to use special techniques
to treat advanced periodontal
Is it true that a normal tooth shakes slightly?
Yes it does. Between the roots of the teeth and its surrounding bone
there is a thin, fibrous and elastic tissue called the periodontal ligament.
Because of this if one holds the tooth with two fingers and tries to shake
it gently, the tooth will be felt to move a fraction of a millimeter.
In the presence of gum disease this movement increases as a result of
a reduction of tooth supporting tissues around the roots.
Is it true that bacteria's are present in
The mouth of an unborn child is free of bacteria, but during its birth
it becomes colonized by bacteria from the mother's birth canal. Shortly
afterwards other species of bacteria are acquired from the infant's environment.
The bacteria in the infant's mouth share all the food that the infant
takes and multiply and become permanent residents of the mouth. When the
child becomes older and teeth erupt, the sulcus is also formed around
the erupted teeth. The sulcus becomes the new hiding place for some species
of bacteria while others prefer the hard surface of the teeth to colonize.
The bacteria are not harmful and the individual's teeth and periodontal
tissues are free of any disease as long as the teeth and their surroundings
are kept reasonably clean by regular tooth brushing.
What is plaque and how does it form?
In a mouth that is not kept clean by regular oral hygiene practice, a
thin, soft, sticky colorless layer is constantly formed on the surface
of teeth and it is called dental plaque. Dental plaque is just layers
of growing mass of various types of bacteria that are present in the mouth.
Dental plaque in small quantities is almost invisible, but in large quantities
it can be felt with a tongue as a fuzzy unclean coating.
If plaque is not completely removed everyday by tooth brushing and flossing,
the remaining plaque becomes a stony crust called calculus/tartar. Calculus
clings to the teeth with such force that only a dentist or a hygienist
with the help of special instruments can remove it.
What causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease, is an infection of the gums caused by bacteria. These bacteria
produce toxins that irritate the gingiva, and also directly infiltrate
into the gingiva causing them to become inflamed and bleed easily. If
the irritation persists, the gingiva separate from the teeth and form
pockets. Plaque then forms within these pockets and eventually destroys
the gingiva and the underlying bone. The teeth may then become loose and
fall out or need to be removed. There are other factors that may contribute
to gum diseases. They are as follows·
Plaque traps-Decayed teeth, broken or ill fitting dentures, crowded or
crooked teeth, improper filled teeth may provide secure areas for plaque
to form, from where it cannot be removed by routine oral hygiene methods.
Systemic factors-Individuals with diseases such as Diabetes, leukemia
or people who are on certain medications may be particularly prone to
gum diseases, because their resistance to this disease has been lowered
and/or that their gums become increasingly sensitive to any local irritation.
What are periodontal pockets?
As mentioned earlier there is a shallow ditch like space that separates
the margin of the normal gums from the tooth surface. The depth of this
space ranges from 0-2mm and is called gingival sulcus. As gum disease
progresses the gum margin becomes detached from the tooth surface and
the sulcus becomes progressively deeper. This sulcus that has been deepened
by disease is called periodontal pocket. It is one of the places that
a dentist will carefully examine to detect the presence of gum disease.
In the early stages there are usually no symptoms and patients are unaware
of the progressing disease, but as the inflammation spreads there is bleeding
from the pockets