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Professional Dental Terminology for the Dental Assistant and Hygienist

Course Number: 542

Supporting and Surrounding Structures of the Teeth

There are several supporting areas that surround the teeth, all of which play major roles in the functioning of the teeth and several different systems of the body.

ce542 - Content - Supporting and Surrounding Structures of the Teeth - Figure 1

The surrounding and supporting structures of the teeth are referred to as the periodontium. The gingiva, or gum, is an important part of this structure. The gingiva surrounds and supports the tooth (other than the crown) and all of the bone. In a healthy mouth, the gingiva is pink and pebbly looking. People with gingivitis have red, swollen and often bleeding gingiva. There are tiny bundles of fibers (known as periodontal ligaments) that attach the cementum of the tooth to the bone in the jaw. This holds the tooth firmly in place in the socket.

ce542 - Content - Supporting and Surrounding Structures of the Teeth - Figure 2

The gingival margin is the top part of the gingiva that surrounds the crown of the tooth. The area of gingiva between two teeth is referred to as the interdental papilla. The gingival sulcus is the space between the gingiva and tooth. It starts where the gingiva is attached to the tooth and continues to the top of the gingival margin. This may also be referred to as the periodontal pocket. Measurements of this space are taken during periodontal screening and recorded for future reference to determine the health of the periodontium. Healthy pockets (or sulcus) will normally measure 3-4 mm in depth. The bone surrounding the tooth is referred to as the alveolar process. Alveolar bone makes up the maxillary and mandibular processes.

Beverly to Mr. Smith: “Mr. Smith, I have completed your periodontal screening and found the data I collected about your periodontal health appears to be within normal limits. We checked the color, tone, and texture of your gums and it is pink, firm and stippled or pebbly. All of these characteristics are indicators of good gum health.

We measured your periodontal pockets and found all of them to be between 1 to 3 mm. Again, this is an indication that they are within normal limits. The dentist may want to have x-rays taken to confirm the bone levels under your gums and make the final diagnosis of your periodontal health. Overall, it appears you have been doing a good job with your oral hygiene.”