Periodontal Anatomy – Gingival fibers

The periodontium includes the specialized tissues which serve to support and surround the teeth. These tissues serve an important purpose of maintaining the teeth within the mandibular and maxillary bones. The word periodontium comes from the Greek terms peri, which means "around" and odont, which means "tooth". From a literal sense, this translates to that which is "around the tooth". Periodontics is the dental specialty which focuses on the care and maintenance of these tissues. The periodontium provides the teeth with the necessary support required to maintain regular function. The four components of the periodontium include the gingiva, periodontal ligament, cementum and the alveolar bone proper.

The gingival fibers are the connective tissue fibers which exist within the gingival tissue that is directly adjacent to the teeth. These fibers aid in securely holding the tissue close to the teeth. They are mainly composed of type I collagen. However, they also contain type III fibers.

Contrary to the fibers of the periodontal ligament, these fibers generally attach the tooth to the gingival tissue, rather than connecting the tooth to the alveolar bone.

Gingival Fibers - Function

The main functions of the gingival fibers include the tasks outlined below:

  • Hold the marginal gingiva securely against the tooth
  • Provide the marginal gingiva with adequate rigidity. This gives it the ability to withstand the forces of mastication without experiencing distortion
  • Aid in stabilizing the marginal gingiva by uniting it with the tissue of the more rigid attached gingiva and the tooth’s cementum layer

Gingival Fibers and Periodontitis

Theoretically speaking, gingival fibers work to protect against periodontitis. Once the fibers are compromised, it is not possible for them to be regenerated. In the event they are destroyed, the gingival sulcus will increase in its depth apically. This allows more debris and bacteria to remain in close contact with the delicate sulcular and junctional epithelia for extended periods of time.

Gingival Fibers Types

There are three different groups which are used to arrange and classify the gingival fibers. This includes the following:

Circular group: this group of fibers are unique as they exclusively exist within the gingiva and do not have contact with the tooth

Dentogingival group: there are three subcategories of fibers which are included within the dentogingival group which are outlined below.

    • Fibers which extend towards the crest of the gingiva
    • Fibers which laterally extend towards the outer surface of the gingiva
    • Fibers which extend outward, beyond the height of the alveolar crest. They then extend downward along the cortex of the alveolar bone

Transseptal group: fibers which are traditionally described as spanning the interproximal tissue located between adjacent teeth, where they are embedded. Two additional types of fibers are also included within this group which include:

      • Semicircular fibers: fibers which go through the facial and lingual gingiva surrounding each tooth. They attach to the interproximal surfaces of the same tooth
      • Transgingival fibers: fibers which run between two non-adjacent teeth. They are embedded into the cementum of their proximal surfaces. The fibers pass around the tooth in the middle of the two teeth which are attached by these fibers