Gingiva (â€œgumsâ€) are part of the soft tissue lining of the mouth. They surround the teeth and provide a seal around them. Compared with the soft tissue linings of the lips and cheeks, most of the gingiva are tightly bound to the underlying bone and are designed to resist the friction of food passing over them. Healthy gingiva is usually coral pink, but may contain physiologic pigmentation. Changes in color, particularly increased redness, together with edema and an increased tendency to bleed, suggest an inflammation that is possibly due to the accumulation of bacterial plaque.
A diagram of the periodontium. A, crown of the tooth, covered by enamel. B, root of the tooth, covered by cementum. C, alveolar bone. D, subepithelial connective tissue. E, oral epithelium. F, free gingival margin. G, gingival sulcus. H, principle gingival fibers. I, alveolar crest fibers of the PDL. J, horizontal fibers of the PDL. K, oblique fibers of the PDL.
Gingiva with colors other than coral pink (like red, white, and blue) can signify inflammation (gingivitis) or pathology. Although the text book color of gingiva is â€œcoral pinkâ€, normal racial pigmentation makes the gingiva appear darker. Because the color of gingiva varies due to racial pigmentation, uniformity of colour is more important than the underlying color itself.
Healthy gingiva has a smooth arcuate or scalloped appearance around each tooth. Healthy gingiva fills and fits each interdental space, unlike the swollen gingiva papilla seen in gingivitis or the empty interdental embrasure seen in periodontal disease. Healthy gums hold tight to each tooth in that the gingival surface narrows to â€œknife-edgeâ€ thin at the free gingival margin. On the other hand, inflamed gums have a â€œpuffyâ€ or â€œrolledâ€ margin.
Healthy gingiva has a firm texture that is resistant to movement, and the surface texture often exhibits surface stippling. Unhealthy gingiva, on the other hand, is often swollen and mushy.
Healthy gums usually have no reaction to normal disturbance such as brushing or periodontal probing. Unhealthy gums on the other hand will show bleeding on probing (BOP) and/or purulent exudate (pus).