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Gingival biotype--a review.


Gingival biotype refers to the quality of soft tissue profile surrounding the tooth. Biotype was first defined by Oschenbein and Ross in 1969 describing the anatomy of gingival contour. (1) The term periodontal biotype was first used by Seibert and Lindhe. (2) Olsson et al referred it as periodontal morphotype. (3) Later the term was replaced by gingival or periodontal phenotype coined by Muller, as they felt phenotype is appropriate word to use as it describes the shape of the teeth and alveolar process along with soft tissue. (2)

Going back to history, in 1923 Hirschfeld first reported that the thin alveolar bone contour is probably covered with a thin gingival form. (2) In 1940, the dental anatomist wheeler noted in his study in extracted teeth that there is a cervical ridge; this ridge helps in holding gingiva with a definite tension. In 1958 Morris described tooth position in relation to gingiva more the buccal prominence more apically the gingival margin located. (4) Oscheinbein and Ross postulated that anatomy of gingiva is dictated by underlying bone architecture. (1) Weisgold emphasized on form and function, he stated that scalloped periodontium has thinner gingiva when compared to a flat periodontium. (4) Olsson & Lindhe (1991) found that individuals with long narrow form of central incisors have a thin periodontium and show more recession compared to subjects with a wide, square form. (3) So by definition periodontal or gingival biotype/ periodontal morphotype/ gingival or periodontal phenotype include bone morphotypes, shape of the teeth, morphologic characteristics of gingiva and periodontium. Various authors have put forward various forms of gingival biotype which are described in table (1).


The thicker biotype is more prevalant in general population. Males have thicker biotypes when compared to females and younger individuals showed thicker biotypes when compared to middle age or older groups. Some authors demonstrated that maxilla has thicker biotype than mandible. Maxillary canines and mandibular 1st premolars usually have thinnest biotype. (5)

In a study done by Vandana KL and Savitha to determine the thickness of facial gingiva among Indians and its association with age, gender and dental arch it was observed that the younger age group had significantly thicker gingiva than that of the older age group. The gingiva was found to be thinner in females than males and, in the mandibular arch than the maxilla. (6)


Many methods (invasive and non-invasive) have been used to evaluate the thickness of facial gingival and other parts of the masticatory mucosa. These methods include conventional histology on cadaver jaws, injection needles, transgingival probing, calipers, histologic sections, cephalometric radiographs, probe transparency, ultrasonic devices, and CBCT.


It is a simple and non invasive method where in the tissue is visually examined and assessed it is routinely used in clinical practice. Disadvantages being it are not considered as a reliable method as it cannot assess the degree of gingival thickness. Eghbali et al (2009) in their study concluded that simple visual examination cannot be relied as an effective method for assessment of biotype irrespective of the clinicians' experience. (7)


In this method tissue thickness is measured using a periodontal probe.Biotype was categorized as thick and thin based on thickness. Thick being more than 1.5 mm and Thin is less than 1.5 mm. Its advantages are Simple and inexpensive. Disadvantages being it are invasive and requires local anesthesia. It has inherent limitations such as precision of the probe during probing which is to the nearest 0.5 mm and the angulation of the probe during probing and distortion of tissue during probing may play a significant role. To avoid these limitations of distortion and angulation In transgingival probing method, some authors used injection needles with rubber stoppers, endodontic pluggers with stoppers.

TRAN METHOD (transparency)

In this method probe is inserted into gingival sulcus and checked for transparency of gingival. If the probe is visible through the gingival tissue, biotype is considered asthin if the probe is not visible then biotype isthick. Advantages of this method are it is Simple, rapid and minimally invasive.This method was found to be highly reproducible with 85% of intraexaminer repeatability for gingival thickness assessment in a clinical trial of 100 periodontally healthy subjects. It was thus validated as a simple, rapid and minimally invasive method. (8)


Kan et al in 2010 first used a tension free calliper to measure the gingival thickness in the facial aspects of maxillary anterior teeth and compared the results with that of obtained using probe and reported no statistically significant difference. But the disadvantage with this procedure is tension-free caliper can only be used at the time of surgery and cannot be used for pretreatment evaluation. (9)


CBCT is known for its superior diagnostic ability and it is extensively used for hard tissues. Fu et al used CBCT to measure the labial thickness of gingiva and bone and compared the results with those obtained by using caliper and no statistically significant difference was noticed, but it is considered more objective method when compared to visual examination and caliper method. But the only disadvantage using CBCT is it requires technical expertise and expensive. (10)


A 1971 study by Kydd et al was the first to measure the thickness of palatal mucosa using an ultrasonic device. Ultrasonic devices appear to be the least invasive and offer excellent validity and reliability. However, such devices are no longer available commercially in addition, they make it difficult to both determine the correct position for accurate measurement and successfully reproduce measurements.


The ultrasonic measuring device is SDM[R] (Austenal Mcdizintechnik, Koln, Germany).

It was extensively described by Knapp & Nentwig 1991, Eger et al. 1996, Muller et al. 1999, 2000. It contains a piezo-electric crystal which is set oscillating at a pulse of 5 MHz transmitting waves through mucosa at a velocity of 1520 m/s and at a rate of 1000 signals/sec which are received and analysed. By timing of the echo with respect to the pulse of transmission the thickness of mucosa is determined within 2-3 secs. The transducer probe has a diameter of 4 mm with a precision of 0.1 mm.

In 2005 a study was done by Savitha and KL Vandana comparing assessment of gingival thickness using trans-gingival probing and ultrasonic device and concluded that transgingival probing method significantly over estimated the thickness of gingiva than the ultrasonographic method and the thickness of gingiva varies with morphology of the crown. It was concluded that compared to transgingival probing ultrasonographic method assesses gingiva thickness more accurately, rapidly and atraumatically. (6)


Dvorak et al (2013) described this method in a case series where they assessed the thickness of mucosa by using computed tomography with splint placed to localize the exact position by a marker points. Marker points were placed at four sites. The Four sites were evaluated two central incisors and two first molars. Patients were asked to puff out cheeks because, Computed tomography scans with distended cheeks provide a more detailed evaluation of mucosal surfaces of the oral cavity than conventional CT scans do. (11)



Thick biotypes include flat soft tissue, bony architecture, denser and more fibrotic soft tissue curtain, large amount of attached masticatory mucosa. When seen from the occlusal view, the alveolar housing of the teeth forms a broad, even ridge and are resistant to acute trauma and respond to disease with pocket formation and infra bony pocket. (12)


Thin biotypes are delicate, highly scalloped and translucent in appearance.The soft tissue appears to be delicate and friable with minimal amount of attached gingiva and thin labial plate with possible presence of dehiscence and fenestrations.Thin scalloped biotypes are considered to be at risk as they have been associated with compromised soft tissue response following surgical or restorative treatment. (12)


Tooth Dimensions: Long and slender teeth usually show a thinner biotype where as short and wider teeth show thicker form. Hence, lesser the overall crown area thick is the biotype. (13)

Papillary Height and Area: Long and thin interdental papilla usually associated with thin biotype whereas wider and shorter papilla shows a thicker form. Hence, lesser the overall papillary area thick is the biotype. (13)

Bone Morphotpye: The gingival contour follows that of bone contour so more scalloped the bone thinner the biotype. Thick biotype is usually associated with thick labial plate. (14)

Keratinised Mucosa: Thick tissue phenotype with flat gingival architecture has a wider keratinised mucosa compared to that of thin and scalloped one. (4)

Palatal Mucosa: Is usually thick in thick tissue biotypes, thickest in the 1st premolar region and thinnest in the 1st molar region. (8)

Tooth Position and Movement: If the tooth is placed or moved buccally the thickness of the facial gingiva decreases. Hence, care should be taken while orthodontic movement in cases of thin gingival biotypes. (4)

BOP and Biotype: Thin and vulnerable gingiva of insufficient width was not more likely to bleed after probing than thicker tissue (Muller 2001).

All the above mentioned define the biotype but the most uniform parameter was found to be tooth dimensions (TD). According to Sammut E (2013) soft tissue biotype is a aggregate or composite of 4 features of soft tissue sand the teeth those are:15

1. Gingival width (keratinised gingiva width).

2. Gingival thickness (thin or thick).

3. Papillary complex proportion.

4. Crown width/height ratio.


It was suggested that since the two tissue biotypes have different gingival and osseous architectures, they exhibit different pathological responses when subjected to inflammatory, traumatic, or surgical insults. These factors dictate the disease progression, treatment outcome and prognosis, hence proper knowledge of it helps to choose an appropriate treatment modality. (16)

Here are some of the clinical situations where in the biotype response is discussed.

Tissue Biotype and Extraction of Teeth

Thick bony plates associated with thick biotypes and thin bony plates with thin biotypes respond differently to extraction. Thick biotypes are associated with minimal ridge atrophy following extraction when compared to thin biotypes so, possible strategies that should be followed in case of extraction of teeth with thin biotypes

1. Minimizing leverage forces towards labial plate.

2. Sectioning the roots from teeth when possible

3. Using periotomes to expand and elevate the tooth and root tips

4. Using ratchet device to remove root tips (safest and a traumatic method in extraction of broken root tips).

Tissue Biotype and Implant Treatment Planning

If osseous and gingival tissues are different for thick and thin tissue biotypes, it seems logical that these distinctions would significantly influence implant site preparation and treatment planning. This is consistent with the observations that the stability of the osseous crest and soft tissue is directly proportional to the thickness of the bone and gingival tissue. Thick biotypes with thick bony plates provide a better environment for implant placement as osseous remodeling among thick and thin biotype differs for a thin biotype case, practitioner must be aware that there is always risk of alveolar bone resorption.

For a thin biotype the tissue over the implant will be more thinner and translucent reflecting the color of implant thus compromising the esthetics. A delayed implant approach might be taken when there is minimal periodontal support or in case of thin biotypes to avoid alveolar resorption. In case of thick biotypes immediate implant placement can be done with predictable results. Berglundh et al 1996 reported marginal bone loss in thin biotypes after implant placement. Huang et al reported angular bone defects in thin biotypes after implant placement. Abrahamsson et al said that thick tissues can avoid significant crestal bone loss after implant placement. (17)

Tissue Biotype and Root Coverage Procedures

According to McFall thickness at donor & recipient sites are key factors in predicting tissue coverage. An initial gingival thickness was found to be the most significant factor that influences the prognosis of a complete root coverage procedure. A flap thickness of 0.8-1.2 mm produced predictable results. A thick tissue has an increased blood supply that will enhance the revascularization of grafts, leading to increased healing and graft incorporation and hence there are more chances of complete root coverage in thick biotype. (18) Nisapakultorn et al (2010) reported a significant association of thin biotype with increased risk of facial mucosal recession. (19)

Gingival Biotype and Crown Lengthening

Thick gingival tissues are more resistant to mucosal recession or mechanical irritation and are capable of creating a barricade to conceal restorative margins. It is said that there is atleast 0.5-0.8 mm bone loss each time when flap is reflected hence, 6 months of healing period is desirable in case of anterior restorations. In case of thin biotypes soft tissue grafting is recommended 6-8 weeks prior the restoration. Pontoriero & Carnevale (2001) showed in a study that on crown lengthening there was soft tissue regain in patients with thick periodontal biotypes than in thin periodontal biotypes. (20)

Gingival Biotype and Sinus Lift Procedures

Aimetti et al in 2008 took maxillary mucosal biopsies from the sinus floor during otorhinolaringologic surgical interventions, and measured gingival thickness in the area of the maxillary anterior teeth. He found out that thick gingival biotypes has thick schnerderian membrane and this could be a reliable factor in predicting and planing sinus lift procedures. (21)

Blood supply to the tissue and underlying bone, in case of thin biotypes is inadequate or less when compared to that of thicker ones this effects the post surgical revascularization due to which compromise in the blood supply may occur leading to underlying bone resorption and loss of soft tissues in the form of recession, dehiscence.

Methods to Improve Tissue Thickness

First carefully assess the soft tissue and underlying bone and determine the biotype. In case of thin biotype soft tissue, graftings can be done to enhance soft tissue quality. The best way to convert thin soft tissue biotype into thick is by using a subepithelial connective tissue graft. Other methods include roll technique; finger split technique and acellular dermal matrix. Tissue keratinisation can be improved by recommending oral physiotherapy. (22)


Periodontal biotype evaluation is an important parameter in establishing patient expectations in many complex esthetic procedures by allowing the clinician to predict therapeutic outcome. By understanding the nature of biotypes clinician can employ appropriate PDL therapy and minimize unwanted treatment outcomes. New technologies for assessment of periodontal biotype allow clinicians for accurate diagnosis and predictable treatment outcome. Therefore to achieve success clinician has to properly asses the soft tissue parameters like keratinised tissue, periodontal biotype and vestibular depth which play a vital role in decision making process and ultimately will help in maintaining the balance between the white and the pink.

doi: 10.5866/2017.9.10086


(1.) Ochsenbien C, Ross S. A re-evaluation of osseous surgery. Dent Clin North Am 1969; 13:87-102.

(2.) Esfahrood et al. Gingival biotype: a review. General dentistry 2013; 14-17.

(3.) Olsson M & Lindhe J. Periodontal characteristics in individuals with varying form of the upper central incisors. J Clin Periodontology 1991; 18:78-82.

(4.) Zweers J, Thomas RZ, Slot DE, Weissgold AS, Van der Weijden GA. Characteristics of periodontal biotype, its dimensions, associations and prevalence: a systematic review. J Clin Periodontol 2014; 41:958-71.

(5.) Bhatt V, Shetty S. Prevalence of different gingival biotypes in individuals with varying forms of maxillary central incisors: A survey. J Dent Implant 2013; 3:116-21.

(6.) Savitha B, Vandana KL. Comparative assesment of gingival thickness using transgingival probing and ultrasonographic method. Indian J Dent Res 2005; 16:1359.

(7.) Claffey N & Shanley D. Relationship of gingival thickness and bleeding to loss of probing attachment in shallow sites following nonsurgical periodontal therapy. J Clin Periodontology 1986; 13:654-7.

(8.) De Rouck T, Eghbali R, Collys K, De Bruyn H & Cosyn J. The gingival biotype revisited: transparency of the periodontal probe through the gingival margin as a method to discriminate thin from thick gingiva. J Clin Periodontology 2009; 36:428-33.

(9.) Eghbali A, De Rouck T, Bruyn H, Cosyn J. The gingival biotype assessed by experienced and in experienced clinicians. J Clin Periodontol 2009; 36:958-63.

(10.) Kan JY, Morimoto T, Rungcharassaeng K, Roe P & Smith DH. Gingival biotype assessment in the esthetic zone: visual versus direct measurement. Int J Periodontics Restorative Dent 2010; 30:237-43.

(11.) Fu JH, Yeh CY, Chan HL, Tatarakis N, Leong DJ & Wang HL. Tissue biotype and its relation to the underlying bone morphology. J Periodontology 2010; 81:569-4.

(12.) Chawla K, Grover H.S. Gingival Biotype: When Thin Is Not Int J Periodontol Med Clin Pract 2014; 1:255-63.

(13.) Olsson M, Lindhe J, Marinello CP. On the relationship between crown form and clinical features of the gingiva in adolescents. J Clin Periodontal 1993; 20(8):570-7.

(14.) Becker W, Ochsenbein C, Tibbetts L & Becker BE. Alveolar bone anatomic profiles as measured from dry skulls. Clinical ramifications. J Clin Periodontology 1997; 24:727-31.

(15.) Soft tissue biotype and its implications. Dental Clinical Articles PPD Magazine.html

(16.) Kao RT, Pasquinelli K, Thick vs. thin gingival tissue: a key determinant in tissue response to disease and restorative treatment. J Calif Dent Assoc 2002; 30:521-6.

(17.) Sammartino G, Marenzi G, et al. Aesthetics in oralimplantology: biological, clinical, surgical, and prosthetic aspects. Implant Dent 2007; 16(1):24-65.

(18.) Hwang D, Wang HL. Flap thickness as a predictor of root coverage: a systematic review. J Periodontol 2006; 77(10):1625-34.

(19.) Nisapakultorn K, Suphanantachat S, Silkosessak O, Ratanamongkolgul S. Factors affecting soft tissues level around anterior maxillary single tooth implants. Clin Oral Implants Res 2010; 21;662-70.

(20.) Reeves WG. Restorative margin placement and periodontal health. J Prosthet Dent 1991; 66:733-6.

(21.) Aimetti M, Massei G, Morra M, Cardesi E, Romano F. Correlation between gingival phenotype and Schneiderian membrane thickness. Int J Oral Maxillofac Implants 2008; 23(6):1128-32

(22.) Tal H, Moses O, Zohar R et al. Root coverage of advanced gingival recession: A comparative study between acellular dermal matrix allograft and subepithelial connective tissue grafts. J Periodontol 2002; 73(12):1405-11.

Ravi Tejeshwar Reddy [1], Vandana KV [2], Shobha Prakash [3]

[1] Post graduate student

[2] Professor

[3] Professor & HOD Department of Periodontics, College of Dental Sciences, Davangere, Karnataka--577004

Article Info:

Received: April 12, 2017

Review Completed: May 11, 2017

Accepted: June 10, 2017

Available Online: June, 2017 (

Email for correspondence:
TABLE 1: Forms of Gingival Tissues Described By Various Authors

Year   Author                    Classification

1923   Hirschfeld (2)            * Thin gingival form
                                 * Thick gingival form

1969   Oschenbein&Ross (1)       * Scalloped and thin
                                 * Flat and thick

1977   Weissgold (4)             * Thin in scalloped periodontium
                                 * Thick in flat perioodntium

1986   Claffey and Shanley (7)   * Thin ([less than or equal
                                 * Thick ([greater than or equal

1991   Olsson & Lindhe (3)       * Thin
                                 * Thick

1996   Kois (2)                  * Normal (alv crest 3mm
                                 apical to cej--85%)
                                 * High (alv crest less
                                 than 3mm-2%)
                                 * Low (alv crest more
                                 than 3mm-13%)

1997   Muller & Eger (12)        * Normal
                                 * Thin
                                 * Thick

2008   Aimetti et al (21)        * Thin (less than 1mm)
                                 * Thick (more than 1mm)

2009   De rouck et al (8)        * Thin
                                 * Medium
                                 * Thick

2010   Kan et al (10)            * Dense and fibrotic (thick)
                                 * Delicate, friable and
                                 translucent (thin)

Year   Author                    Basis

1923   Hirschfeld (2)            * Based on the alveolar contour

1969   Oschenbein&Ross (1)       * Contour of gingiva closely
                                 followed the contour of bone

1977   Weissgold (4)             * On form and function

1986   Claffey and Shanley (7)  * Based on thickness

1991   Olsson & Lindhe (3)       * Based on gingival morphology
                                 and its types based on tooth
                                 dimensions that is cw/cl ratio of
                                 tooth, giving two forms of teeth
                                 1. long and narrow
                                 2. short wide and square

1996   Kois (2)                  * Based on the relationship
                                 between alveolar crest and CEJ
                                 * He said that clinical outcomes are
                                 strongly related to the gingival or
                                 alveolar crest form.

1997   Muller & Eger (12)        * Based on gingivalmorphology via.
                                 Cluster analysis.

2008   Aimetti et al (21)        * Based on the gingival thickness.

2009   De rouck et al (8)        * Based on the transparency of
                                 gingiva when probe is inserted.

2010   Kan et al (10)            * Based on the tissue make up and
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Author:Reddy, Ravi Tejeshwar; Vandana, K.V.; Prakash, Shobha
Publication:Indian Journal of Dental Advancements
Article Type:Report
Date:Apr 1, 2017
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