Most people don't realize the importance of those little flaps of gum tissue between their teeth. That's understandable considering their size. However, interdental papillae are vital to your oral health in a number of ways. Unfortunately, because most people don't know very much about papillae, they may neglect them.

Like the rest of your mouth, papillae can only do their job if they are healthy. Poor oral health can cause interdental papillae to shrink and in some cases, disappear altogether. If you lose your papillae, you lose the following benefits.

Interdental Papillae Prevent Food Impaction

Each interdental papilla is positioned between two teeth. When you look at them in a mirror, they appear triangular in shape. When papillae are healthy, they prevent food particles from building up between the teeth. This protects the interproximal (sides) surfaces of teeth from tartar formation.

Interdental Papillae Protect Teeth Roots

The roots of teeth are just below the gum line. The gum tissue keeps them protected, which is just as well because there is very little enamel on root surfaces. The papillae occupies a very important space between the teeth because it is here where bacteria and food can build up. If the papillae were not present here, the roots of those teeth would be at the mercy of bacteria.

Interdental Papillae Help You Look Young

Although you may not be aware of it, when a person smiles, the condition of their papillae has a great impact on the attractiveness of their smile. According to research, 91% of people show their papillae when smiling. However, the importance of the papillae does not become clearly apparent until they are either absent or swollen due to infection.

Gum disease, which is caused by bacteria, irritates the dental papillae. At first, they become swollen and inflamed. This leaves a person's smile looking noticeably less pleasing. If the gum disease worsens, the papillae recede along with the surrounding gum tissue, leaving clearly visible black triangles between the teeth, where the papillae once were.

Dental Papillae Can Be Brought Back

Although it isn't always possible, especially in cases where there has been significant bone loss, lost or damaged papillae can be returned to normal. For instance, a periodontist can build up a papillae with gum surgery. Cosmetic dentistry can also help to close black triangles and cover exposed root surfaces.

Your interdental papillae may be small but the role they play is vital to your oral health and your appearance.