The Location and Function of the Interdental Papilla

The Area of Your Mouth Most Susceptible to Gingivitis

The interdental papilla is the gum tissue found in the space between the teeth. It helps protect the roots of your teeth and keeps food from getting stuck between your teeth, leading to decay. Due to its location, it is susceptible to recession and deterioration from neglect or improper brushing and flossing, as well as dental issues such as gingivitis.

Woman's mouth being examined with dental mirror
Pakorn Polachai / EyeEm / Getty Images 


Papilla means a small, nipplelike projection, and papillae is the plural form of the word. In this case, they are structures of the gums that project between the teeth. The structure of the interdental papilla is dense connective tissue covered by oral epithelium. Between your incisors, the interdental papillae are shaped like a pyramid. They are broader for your back teeth.

Healthy interdental papillae are a coral pink color. They are firmly attached to your teeth, without gaps. They are shaped like triangles and have a size in proportion to the teeth.

If a papilla recedes, you are left with a black triangle. If they are inflamed, they may be swollen, painful, red, or bleeding. As with all gingival tissue, an interdental papilla is not able to regenerate itself, or grow back, if lost from recession due to improper brushing. If it deteriorates, it is gone permanently. Restoring papillae around dental implants is a challenge for periodontists.


When an interdental papilla has been reduced or is missing, it leaves behind the appearance of a triangular gap. Alternatively, during orthodontic treatment, gingival overgrowth due to the use of medication, or from periodontal disease, the interdental papillae may become pronounced appear bulbous and puffy.

A periodontist, or a gum specialist, is able to perform surgery that can predictably regenerate gingiva, although the papilla is difficult to obtain. In situations where the interdental papillae are pronounced, the periodontist is able to perform a gingivectomy to remove the extra tissue and resculpt the area. However, these procedures can be difficult and expensive. 

The interdental papillae are susceptible to gingivitis, which is a serious dental concern. One of the main ways to prevent gingivitis is to take good care of your teeth.


Gingivitis is a reversible form of gum disease affecting only the attached and free gingival tissue that surrounds your teeth. It is a reversible dental condition that can be properly treated with professional cleanings to remove plaque and calculus build up in the teeth, along with regular home maintenance. The home maintenance may include a prescribed antibacterial mouth rinse known as chlorhexidine gluconate.

A dentist is able to confirm the extent of your gum disease and thus plan proper treatment accordingly. However, if left untreated or improperly treated, gingivitis can develop and continue to progress into periodontitis, which is even more serious. Periodontitis, unlike gingivitis, is irreversible and often leads to tooth loss.

Getting regular dental check visits can help to keep gum disease under control or eliminate it completely. If you are concerned about gingivitis or other dental issues, be sure to speak with your dentist or dental hygienist about the issue at your next dental appointment.

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By Shawn Watson
Shawn Watson is an orthodontic dental assistant and writer with over 10 years of experience working in the field of dentistry.