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Loose Gum Flap Between Teeth?

Gum Flap Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and How To Seek Treatment
Photo of Dr. Iliana Paparisto, DDS, DMD
By: Dr. Iliana Paparisto, DDS, DMD - Published: November 29, 2023


A loose gum flap between teeth can occur for several reasons, the most common of which is unaddressed gum disease. Also referred to by the technical terms "loose papilla" or "loosening papilla", it is a condition that affects the triangular gum tissue between two teeth (see image below):

Photograph of the papilla where loose gum flaps between teeth often occur.

Photo depicting the papilla where loose gum flaps typically occur

Loose Gum Flap Symptoms

As shown in the image below, patients with a loose gum flap between their teeth will typically have experienced a number of early stage symptoms including:

  • swelling of the gums
  • redness, soreness and irritation around the gums
  • bleeding gums
  • a bad taste in the mouth
  • halitosis (bad breath)

Diagram depicting gum disease and loose gum flaps between teeth

Example of healthy teeth and gums vs infected teeth and gums

As shown in the diagram above,  gum disease leads to the formation of periodontal pockets i.e. gaps between the teeth and the gums. These pockets become a breeding ground for the harmful bacteria that cause the loosening of the gum creating "flaps" between your teeth.

Loose Gum Flap Causes

While a loose gum flap between teeth is most commonly related to untreated periodontal disease, here are several other known causes to be aware of:

Smoking and Tobacco Use:

Tobacco use is a significant risk factor for gum disease. Smoking can impair blood flow to the gums, compromise the immune system's ability to fight infection, and contribute to papilla instability.

Trauma or Injury:

Physical trauma to the gum tissue, such as accidental injury or aggressive tooth brushing, can cause irritation and looseness of the papilla.

Poor-fitting Dental Appliances:

Ill-fitting dental appliances, such as poorly designed braces or dental bridges, can put pressure on the gum tissue, leading to irritation and potential loosening of the papilla.

Medical Conditions:

Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, can affect the body's ability to combat infections, potentially leading to gum problems and loose papilla.

Loose Gum Flap Treatment Strategies:

If you notice a loose papilla or any changes in your gum health, it's crucial to seek professional dental advice. The first step would be to schedule an oral exam and a thorough cleaning. During the oral exam, your dentist will be able to identify the underlying cause of your loose gums and recommend an appropriate course of treatment.

In most cases, treating your loose gum will involve the following steps:

Scaling and Root Planing:

Thorough removal of plaque and tartar from tooth surfaces and roots to promote gum reattachment.

Periodontal Surgery:

Surgical interventions may be necessary to address advanced cases, such as flap surgery to reduce pocket depths or bone grafting to restore lost bone.

Antibiotic Therapy:

Antibiotics play a crucial role in controlling bacterial infection and supporting the healing process.

Outlook / Prognosis:

While the symptoms described above can be treated and managed, periodontal gum disease and a loosening of papilla are progressive conditions that cannot be cured. For patients, managing this condition starts with obtaining a proper diagnosis followed by ongoing treatment from a periodontist to avoid increased health risk and tooth loss.


If you've noticed a loose gum flap between your teeth, it is vital to understand the correlation between loose gums and periodontal disease. Seeking professional guidance and adhering to a comprehensive plan can alleviate gum issues and begin the process of restoring your oral health and confidence.

Loose Gum Flap Diagnosis

Do you have loose gums? If so, the next best step is to receive a diagnosis. During our New Patient Exam and Cleaning, Dr. Paparisto will conduct a thorough periodontal exam to diagnose you for gum disease. Next, our dental hygienist will conduct a deep cleaning to address any immediate oral health issues. Finally, if you do have gum disease, Dr. Paparisto will recommend a treatment plan that may include scaling and root planing, periodontal surgery and antibiotic therapy.

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