The gingiva, or gums (as we commonly know them), are often overlooked in our daily oral hygiene routines, yet they play a vital role in maintaining healthy teeth and gums. The Gingiva is a complex and essential part of the oral anatomy.



It protects the teeth, holds them in place, and can sense any change in temperature and pressure fluctuations.

In this article, we will dive deeper and explore the anatomy of gum, its functions, and conditions that can affect its health.

So, whether you’re a dental professional or simply looking to improve your oral hygiene, this article will provide valuable insights into the gingiva’s importance and how to take care of it.

Anatomy of the Gum

When looking at the Gingival anatomy, there are two main parts: the attached gum and the unattached gum. The attached Gingiva is a dense, fibrous tissue – firmly attached to the underlying bone, which covers the tooth roots. While the unattached Gingiva, or the gingival mucosa, is a thinner layer of tissue – loosely attached to the bone, which covers the alveolar bone.

Do you know that your gum also comprises several layers of tissue? Some of these tissues also include the epithelium, the connective tissue, and the periosteum. The epithelium is the outermost layer of the Gingiva, which acts as a barrier against bacteria and other pathogens.

The connective tissue contains blood vessels, nerves, and collagen fibers that support and nourish the Gingiva. The periosteum is a thin layer of tissue that covers the bone and helps hold the Gingiva in place.

The structural configuration of Gingiva

Normal gingiva color can range from pale coral pink to darkly pigmented. The composition of gingival tissue differs based on its location and function. There are two distinct varieties of gingiva and several significant anatomical regions.

  1. Alveolar mucosa

    The tissue is located beyond the mucogingival junction. It appears to be less securely affixed and redder than the gingiva. It is non-keratinized and provides a gentler, more flexible surface for cheek and lip movement.

  2. Attached gingiva

    This tissue is adjacent to the free gingiva, is keratinized, and is firmly attached to the underlying bone structure. Its height can range from 3 to 12 mm.

  3. Free gingiva

    Free gingiva is when the tissue is not affixed to the tooth and creates a collar around it. The tissues surrounding the tooth are known as the sulcus, and its depth is typically between 1-3 mm. It is lined with sulcular epithelium and affixed to the tooth by an epithelial attachment at its base.

  4. Gingival margin

    The region of the gingiva that comes into contact with the tooth.

  5. Junctional epithelium

    The portion of the gingiva adheres to the tooth’s connective tissue. It lies at the bottom of the sulcus.

  6. Interdental papillae

    The region of gingival tissue between adjacent teeth is known as the Interdental papillae. This is typically sharp-edged and occupies the interdental space in a healthy mouth. The scalloped line separates the affixed gingiva from the alveolar mucosa.

The Various Functions of the Gingiva

When it comes to its functions, your gum plays a vital role, such as:

  1. Protecting the Teeth

    The Gingiva is a protective barrier around the teeth, preventing bacteria and other harmful substances from reaching the roots. It also protects the underlying bone from any form of damage.

  2. Supporting the Teeth

    The Gingiva supports the teeth by attaching to the underlying bone and holding the teeth intact. The attachment of the Gingiva to the tooth is known as the gingival attachment.

  3. Sensing Temperature and Pressure

    The Gingiva is rich in nerves that can feel temperature and pressure, allowing us to detect hot and cold foods and determine how hard to bite down on food.

  4. Maintaining Oral Health

    The Gingiva plays a crucial role in maintaining oral health by preventing the growth of harmful bacteria and promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria that can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

Conditions Affecting the Gingiva

Several conditions can affect the health of the Gingiva, which include factors such as:

  1. Gingivitis

    Gingivitis is a common condition that causes inflammation and bleeding of the gums. It is caused by the buildup of plaque on the teeth. The only way to deter this dental condition is by practicing good oral hygiene, such as brushing twice daily and flossing daily. In the worst-case scenario, you must consult an experienced dentist who can provide the best treatment.

  2. Periodontitis

    Periodontitis is a more severe form of gum disease that can cause the loss of teeth and bone. It is caused by bacteria buildup, and only a professional dentist can provide you with the best treatment plan, such as scaling and root planing or surgery.

  3. Gum Recession

    Gum recession occurs when the Gingiva pulls away from the teeth, exposing the roots. It can be caused by several factors, including gum disease, brushing too hard, and aging. The condition can lead to sensitivity and an increased risk of cavities. Most dentists choose to treat gum recession with procedures such as gum grafting.

  4. Oral Cancer

    Oral cancer can affect any mouth part, including your gum. Early detection is crucial for successful treatment. Regular dental check-ups and oral cancer screenings can help detect oral cancer early.

How to know if your gum is healthy?

Healthy gums are typically pink and commonly described as coral pink in color. Other colors like red, white, and blue may indicate gingivitis-related inflammation. The excessive use of tobacco or other drugs can also result in discoloration. While healthy gums are described as coral pink, there can be slight variations in color amongst individuals. This can occur due to several factors, such as the thickness and degree of keratinization of the epithelium, the quantity of blood flow to the gums, the skin’s inherent pigmentation, an underlying disease, or medications.

Because the color of healthy gums can vary, a uniform color is more essential than the color of the underlying tissue. Additionally, excessive melanin deposits can produce dark marks or patches on the gums. These dark patches can be particularly common at the interdental papillae’s base. Gum depigmentation or gum bleaching is a common cosmetic dentistry procedure for removing these dark patches. Healthy gums adhere firmly to each tooth, and the gum surface becomes narrow and thin at the unconstrained gingival margin. In contrast, inflamed gums appear to be swollen.


The Gingiva or gum plays a crucial role in oral health, providing protection and support for the teeth and playing a crucial role in maintaining overall health. Practicing good oral hygiene and seeking professional dental care when necessary can help prevent and treat conditions that can affect the Gingiva. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings are crucial to maintaining a healthy gingiva and preventing oral diseases. Therefore, book your appointment and visit a dentist before it’s too late.

Dr. Michael

Dr. Michael

MSc Implantology, Bonn University, Germany