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What is Periodontium?

By Andy Josiah
Updated Feb 19, 2024
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Periodontium is the tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth. The term, which literally means "around the tooth," is of Greek origin, with "peri" meaning "around," and "odon" meaning "tooth." It is rendered as periodontia in plural form and is an essential component of the structure and function of teeth.

Periodontium is responsible for holding the teeth in the maxilla and mandible. The maxilla refers to the bones that form the upper jaw, while the mandible comprises the lower jaw. Both fissures function to hold the upper and lower teeth in place.

A network of four tissues make up the periodontium. The alveolar bone, also referred to as the alveolar process, is the ridge at the maxilla and mandible that contains the sockets for the rows of teeth. A portion of it is adjacent to another tissue component of the periodontium, which is called the periodontal ligament. This network of connective fibers is responsible for attaching teeth to the alveolar bone, thereby enabling them to endure functions such as chewing without weakening or loosening.

A part of the periodontal ligament called the lamina dura attaches to a third type of tissue known as the cementum. This refers to the calcified surface layer of the periodontium that covers teeth's roots. It originates from cells secreted from the roots, which are called cementoblasts. This tissue of the periodontium stands alongside the pulp and other calcified substances such as enamel and dentin as one of the major components of the teeth.

The fourth and last type of tissue that makes up the periodontium is the gingiva, more commonly known as the gums. It firmly surrounds the teeth and the alveolar bone, thus acting as a sealant. Without the gums, the teeth would not be able to withstand the moving force of food during eating. More than just a binding substance, gingiva also forms part of the mouth's soft tissue lining.

The dental specialty of periodontics, also known as periodontology, is named after periodontium, since it refers to the health care of this collection of tissues. Dentists who practice this specialization are known as periodontists, and they focus on diseases or medical conditions that affect the periodontium. The most common periodontal disease is gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums. It is very important to take care of and maintain the periodontium. Neglect of this part of the oral anatomy can lead to tooth decay and loss.

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Discussion Comments
By John57 — On Mar 22, 2012

We have never had dental insurance and have to pay out-of-pocket for all of our dental expenses. This is one of the biggest reasons my husband didn't go to the dentist for about 7 years.

I think he found out pretty quickly this didn't end up saving him any money. If he had gone on a consistent basis, he could have prevented many of the problems he ended up with.

His teeth and gums were in poor shape and he really had bad gingivitis. It's not a good thing when your gums start receding like that.

After two years of treatment and maintenance, he is finally back on a 6 month schedule instead of being seen every 3 months. I don't think he will ever let it go that long again.

I would really like to keep my own teeth as long as I can, so I have always gone to the dentist on a regular basis. I really don't like the idea of having to wear false teeth someday.

By LisaLou — On Mar 22, 2012

I have had diabetes for many years, and now have developed periodontal disease. Both my doctor and my dentist have told me there is a relationship between diabetes and periodontium.

I don't totally understand how my diabetes affects my gums, but I am not surprised since this affects so many other parts of my body.

It doesn't matter how well I try and take care of my teeth, my diabetes still causes problems with my teeth and gums.

By myharley — On Mar 21, 2012

When a dentist checks your teeth and gums, a normal periodontium will not have pockets. My dentist always checks this with every visit by using an instrument that checks my gums beside each tooth.

He can usually tell right away whether I have been flossing or not. He has always told me one of the best ways to have healthy gums, and to prevent plaque is by flossing.

Plaque builds up on my teeth quicker than some people, so I have made flossing a part of my daily routine. It took awhile to get in the habit of doing this, but now it drives me crazy if I don't.

By StarJo — On Mar 21, 2012

My brother had terrible oral hygiene years ago, and he suffered from periodontitis. Since he didn't remove the plaque and tartar from his own teeth and he refused to get them cleaned by a dentist, he started losing them.

First, his periodontium became really inflamed and tender. Then, some of his back teeth became loose. Finally, they started falling out, and he agreed to go to a periodontist.

He had to have surgery, since his was an advanced case. He had to have a skin graft from the roof of his mouth to give him new gum tissue. He even had to have some synthetic bone put in to replace what had worn away.

I believe that this traumatized him enough, both financially and physically, to motivate him to take good care of his teeth. He brushes twice a day and flosses now, and I never thought I would see the day when he did that.

By wavy58 — On Mar 20, 2012

My periodontal tissues are often riddled with canker sores. These are incredibly painful, and as far as I know, there is no outright cure for them.

The area all around my teeth is prone to them. A canker sore looks like a red spot with a hole in the middle, and it can even bleed if food scrapes up against it.

Any type of citrus juice burns incredibly when it comes in contact with the canker sores. I have to be careful what I put in my mouth when I have them.

I finally broke down and saw a periodontist. He told me to make a paste out of baking soda and water and apply it several times a day. This cleared up the sores in a week, whereas it usually takes two for them to go away on their own.

By shell4life — On Mar 20, 2012

@lighth0se33 – I would go see one if I were you. Once my gums started to recede, I developed pockets around my teeth, and my periodontist had to fix them for me.

The problem with the pockets is that bacteria gets in them and makes the gum recession worse. The periodontist will pull back the gums and eliminate the bacteria. He also will do something called “root planing and scaling.”

This just means that he will scrape away any plaque that has formed on your teeth roots, and then, he will smooth the surface. He will even out any bumps that could be causing gaps between your gums and teeth.

I know this sounds painful, but on me, he used a numbing gel, so I didn't feel anything. Afterward, he gave me some pain pills, because he knew it would be sore for awhile.

By lighth0se33 — On Mar 20, 2012

My gums have been slowly receding over the past few years, and I am worried about it. The strange thing is that I take good care of my teeth, and even my dentist tells me I'm doing an excellent job of it.

He doesn't even seem concerned about the gum recession. He tells me that hormonal changes and aging most likely have caused it. I have always heard that gum recession can mean that bacteria are living under your gums, though, and I don't want them to make my gums recede even further.

Should I go see a periodontist? What could he do about it?

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