The periodontium is comprised of specialized tissues which serve two functions including surrounding and supporting the teeth in order to maintain them within the mandibular and maxillary bones. The word periodontium comes from the Greek terms peri-, meaning "around" and -odont, meaning "tooth". The literal translation of periodontium is "around the tooth". Periodontics is a specialized dental practice which focuses on the maintenance and care of these tissues. The specialty provides the support which is needed in order to maintain the proper function of the teeth. The practice of periodontics consists of four different areas which includes the following:
- Alveolar Bone Proper
- Periodontal Ligament (PDL)
Gingival fibers are the connective tissue fibers that are found in the gingival tissue next to the teeth. They help to hold the gum tissue securely against the teeth. The fibers are primarily made up of type I collagen, however, type III fibers are also involved.
Unlike the fibers of the periodontal ligament, these fibers generally connect the tooth to the gingival tissue, rather than connecting the tooth to the alveolar bone.
Functions of Gingival Fibers
The primary functions of the gingival fibers includes:
- Holding the marginal gingiva securely against the tooth
- Providing stability to the marginal gingiva
- Stabilizing the marginal gingiva by connecting it with the tissue of the more rigid attached gingiva and the cementum layer of the tooth
Gingival Fibers and Periodontitis
Gingival fibers help to protect the teeth and gums against periodontitis. Once the fibers are compromised, it is not possible for them to be regenerated. When the gingival fibers are destroyed, the gingival sulcus increases in depth apically. Over time, this allows debris and bacteria to remain in contact with the delicate sulcular and junctional epithelia.
Types of Gingival Fibers
Gingival fibers can be arranged into three unique categories which are summarized below.
- Dentogingival group: There are three different types of fibers within the dentogingival group. These groups include:
- Fibers which extend towards the crest of the gingiva
- Fibers which extend laterally to the outer surface of the gingiva
- Fibers which extend outward, beyond the height of the alveolar crest and downward along the cortex of the alveolar bone
- Circular group: these types of fibers are unique because they exclusively exist within the gingiva. They do not, however, come into contact with the tooth
- Transseptal group: these types of fibers are often described as spanning the interproximal tissue between the adjacent teeth, which is where they are embedded. There are two additional types of fibers which are included within this group:
- Semicircular fibers: this includes fibers which run through the facial and lingual gingiva surrounding the teeth. The fibers attach to the interproximal surfaces of the same tooth.
- Transgingival fibers: this includes fibers which run between two teeth which are not adjacent. These fibers are embedded in the cementum of their proximal surfaces. They pass around the tooth in the middle of the two teeth which are attached with these fibers.