What is a Periodontal Ligament?

Christine Hudson

The periodontal ligament, or PDL, is one of these important parts of a healthy mouth which commonly gets overlooked. Each tooth has its own PDL. These ligaments are made up of strips of fibrous connective tissue and attach each tooth to the bone on which it rests.

A periodontal ligament can be seen in a dental x-ray.
A periodontal ligament can be seen in a dental x-ray.

Full dental health has a lot more to it than just maintaining healthy teeth. Many people may work to keep their teeth clean and free of cavities, but don't consider other "hidden" health factors involved. The periodontal ligament is one of these areas.

A periodontal ligament helps the tooth withstand the forces of biting and chewing.
A periodontal ligament helps the tooth withstand the forces of biting and chewing.

There are several types of connective fibers that make up the PDL. These include the crest, horizontal, and oblique fibers. All of the fibers work together to add strength, cushion and sensation to the ligament and to support the tooth itself. The periodontal ligament cannot be seen from the outside, but individuals can see it in a dental x-ray, which shows the PDL as a black line around the bottom and in between the teeth.

Taking good care of teeth is essential to keeping a healthy PDL and a great smile.
Taking good care of teeth is essential to keeping a healthy PDL and a great smile.

A periodontal ligament also has other functions besides attachment. For one, the ligament helps the tooth withstand the forces of biting and chewing. It sends information about this pressure force to the brain when a bite is taken and lets it know whether or not the pressure is too hard. The PDL can feel pain if there is a chewing or biting problem and is responsible for coordinating the actions of chewing.

Using mouthwash can help protect PDLs from bacteria.
Using mouthwash can help protect PDLs from bacteria.

Additionally, a tight PDL can protect teeth from bacterial invasion. If the periodontal ligament comes loose or is otherwise damaged, it can expose the inner parts of the tooth to ruin or bacterial problems. A condition that may result from this type of damage is periodontitis. Tooth pain is also a common problem for people with a disturbed PDL, and a weakened periodontal ligament can even be a risk factor for very serious problems like oral cancer.

Tooth pain is a common problem for people with a disturbed PDL.
Tooth pain is a common problem for people with a disturbed PDL.

Keeping the teeth clean with regular brushing not only keeps plaque away and promotes good breath, but it also helps to protect the PDL from bacteria. Other steps such as flossing and using mouthwash add another level of protection from cavities and damage to the very important periodontal ligament. Taking good care of one's teeth is essential to keeping a great smile and a healthy PDL. The consequences of poor oral health could go much deeper than the appearance of the teeth.

Poor oral health can have bigger consequences than just the appearance of one's teeth.
Poor oral health can have bigger consequences than just the appearance of one's teeth.
Regular teeth brushing helps to protect a periodontal ligament from bacteria.
Regular teeth brushing helps to protect a periodontal ligament from bacteria.

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