Your gums (gingivae) are tissues that surround the base of your teeth and help keep them in place. It’s important to protect your gums from periodontal disease that can damage your gums, leading to tooth and bone loss. Good oral hygiene, like brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily and seeing a dentist twice a year, is the best way to have healthy gums.


Your gums are the pink tissue just above and below your teeth.
Mucosa (at top), attached gingivae (middle) and marginal gingivae. Inset: How teeth are anchored in your gums.

What are gums?

Your gums (gingivae) are pink tissues in your upper and lower jaws that surround the base of your teeth. Gum (periodontal) disease damages your gums, which can cause tooth loss.


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Where are gums located?

Your gums are the pink tissue just above and below your teeth. (You may need to pull your lips up or down to get a good look at your gums). Your teeth have roots that anchor your teeth to soft connective tissue (periodontal ligament) that lines your tooth socket. Your gums include layers of soft tissue that surround and support your teeth’s roots. These layers are:

  • Maxillary labial frenum. Frenum is soft tissue that runs in a very thin line between your lips and your gums. Your maxillary labial frenum is tissue at the front of your mouth between your upper gum and your upper lip.
  • Alveolar mucosa is a bright red mucous membrane that runs across the floor of your mouth, cheeks and lips.
  • Marginal gingiva is a strip of soft tissue that surrounds the neck (bottom) of your teeth. It’s not bound to your teeth. A dentist checking your gum health can use a tiny ruler (probe) to move your marginal gingiva away from your teeth.
  • Attached gingiva is a second layer of soft tissue. Unlike marginal gingiva, a dentist can’t move this layer of gum tissue.
  • Interdental gingiva (papilla) is tissue between your teeth.
  • Mandible buccal frenum. This frenum is at the front of your mouth between your lower lip and lower gum.

What do gums do?

Your gums help keep your teeth in place. They cover and protect the part of your jawbone that supports your teeth.

What do healthy gums look like?

Healthy gums are pink and firm to your touch.

Conditions and Disorders

What are different types of gum disease?

The different types of gum disease are:

  • Gingivitis, which happens when bacteria, plaque and tartar build-up on your teeth, causing infection. Gingivitis is very common. Almost half of all adults in the U.S. older than age 30 have some form of gingivitis.
  • Periodontitis is a bacterial infection that’s a serious form of gum disease. Periodontitis affects more than 47% of adults over age 30 in the U.S. That number jumps to around 70% for adults 65 years and over. Left untreated, periodontitis erodes the bone that supports your teeth.



How do I take care of my gums?

Practicing good oral hygiene is the best way to take care of your gums:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day. As you brush, take time to tackle bacteria and plaque near your gum line by placing your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle toward your gums.
  • Floss between your teeth to remove bacteria and plaque.
  • Use an antibacterial mouthwash to reduce plaque buildup that could lead to gum disease.
  • Visit your dentist regularly. Dentists recommend getting a dental cleaning and check-up every six months. If you’re prone to gum disease, you may need to see your dentist more often.

When should I be worried about my gums?

Talk to a dentist if you have gum disease symptoms like bleeding or swollen gums that don’t get better. A dentist will examine your gums and mouth, make a diagnosis and discuss any treatment you may need.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Your gums are important because they help keep your teeth in place. You can lose your teeth to periodontal disease that damages your gums. Good oral hygiene — brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing — protects your gums by clearing away the bacteria that can cause gum disease. Talk to a dentist if you have gum issues, like unusual bleeding or swelling, which may be symptoms of early gum disease.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 05/10/2023.

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