What’s gingiva?

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The gums are tough connective tissue that hold teeth in place and protect against infection. Gingivitis, gum recession, and other diseases can occur, making regular dental care important. Symptoms of gum disease should be addressed promptly.

The gingiva is tough connective tissue that lines the base of the teeth, holding them in place and protecting the jaw and tooth roots from infection. Known informally as the gums, the gums are a very important part of the oral anatomy and caring for them is vital to maintaining oral health. Problems with the gums can be identified during routine oral exams or detected by patients experiencing changes in their mouth.

This connective tissue has a strong fibrous underlayer, covered by a layer of mucous membranes. Gums are very strong, designed to withstand trauma from chewing and hard foods entering the mouth. The base of this tissue is firmly anchored to the bone, while the top portion is free, allowing gum to flow between the teeth to help stabilize and hold them in place. In addition to anchoring the teeth, the gum also creates a seal that prevents bacteria, plaque and other foreign material from entering the roots of the teeth, where it could cause trauma or infection.

When a patient’s gum becomes chronically inflamed, the condition is known as gingivitis. Classic symptoms of gingivitis can include changes in the color of the gum, along with swelling and bleeding. Patients may find that their gums are very tender after brushing their teeth or that their gums bleed freely after oral hygiene or after eating. Gingivitis can lead to complications which include serious infections and is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Over time, the gum can recede. Sometimes gum recession is caused by gingivitis, but it can also be associated with other oral problems or occur on its own. Receding gums are a cause for concern because they can put a patient at risk of infection and destabilize teeth. Other gum diseases can include gum cancer, in which cells in the gums become malignant, and gingival hyperplasia, in which the gums grow noticeably enlarged.

Caring for your gums includes brushing your teeth regularly, using mouthwash to keep your mouth clean, and flossing between your teeth to remove buildup before it has a chance to develop into plaque and tartar. Regular tooth cleanings also promote dental health and give your dentist the opportunity to inspect your gums to confirm that they are in good condition. Patients experiencing symptoms of gum disease should make an appointment with a dentist for an exam, as the prognosis improves markedly when surgery is provided promptly.

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