A Guide to Your White Gums
Everyone aspires for a bright white smile, but white gums? Not so common.
Healthy gums are usually pink, but if you have noticed your gums turning white, you may see a symptom of an underlying health condition. Fortunately, this article will explain any potential underlying cause of your white gums and their treatment options. These conditions can be serious, so as soon as you notice white patches on your gums, it is vital to see a doctor or dentist as soon as possible.
What are white gums?
White gums refer to discolouration forming around the foundations of your teeth. It can manifest as white patches and/or swelling, with more extreme cases, including loose teeth and bleeding.
At its core, white gums can indicate that there is a serious underlying health condition affecting you. This can be from poor oral hygiene, mouth infections, or even diseases. However, if you have recently undergone a dental practice like teeth whitening or tooth extraction, your white gums may be a temporary side effect of the procedure.
Is white gums serious?
Several instances of white gums can be serious, especially in the case of oral cancer.
However, it can be hard to determine by yourself whether or not a serious condition causes the pale skin around your gums. That is why it is important to contact your dentist for a diagnosis as soon as you notice loose teeth, ulcers inside the mouth, pain, swelling, or bleeding alongside your white gums.
Why are my gums white?
There are several potential causes for your gums turning white, ranging from side effects of dental treatments, to more severe long-term inflammatory diseases. The conditions you need to keep an eye out for include:
- Canker sores
- Oral cancer
- Oral Lichen Planus
- Oral Thrush
- Teeth Whitening
- Tooth Extraction
If your body is producing a lower number of red blood cells than normal, you may be dealing with the medical condition known as anaemia. Since red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body, including organs and tissue, you may notice your gums turning pale from a lack of sufficient oxygen.
You can develop anaemia from lacking vitamin B-12 or iron in your diet, or from medical conditions like Crohn’s. Regardless of the underlying cause, anaemia is commonly first noticeable through extreme fatigue. From there, other symptoms can be:
- Lack of breath
- Cold extremities
- An irregular heartbeat or chest pain
Depending on the cause of your anaemia, there are different treatment options. If it is a lack of a balanced diet, iron supplements and vitamin B-12 shots can be utilised along with an improved diet.
However, more severe causes of anaemia, like bone marrow diseases or sickle cells, will require more long-term treatment options like medications, blood transfusions, bone marrow transplants, oxygen, or even chemotherapy.
2. Canker sores
These sores, also known as ulcers, develop on the inside of your mouth, and can be incredibly painful. Canker sores have yellow or white centres, and are often located under the tongue, inside the cheeks, or at the bottom of your gums. There is no exact cause for these sores, but bad bacteria, mouth injuries, food sensitivities and even stress can create an outbreak; although, luckily, this condition is not contagious.
Regardless, it is easy for your dentist or doctor to diagnose your pale gums with canker sores through a visual diagnosis. There are various treatment options available, but persistent and severe sores may require tests to determine any other underlying health problems.
Minor canker sores will clear up naturally without treatment in a week or two. In contrast, more numerous or painful sores will require medical treatments like:
- A mouth rinse with steroid dexamethasone to reduce the pain and inflammation.
- Over-the-counter topical products like benzocaine, hydrogen peroxide or fluocinonide to speed up healing.
- Oral steroid or ulcer treatment medications if topical oral ointments do not work.
- Chemical cauterising.
- Nutrition supplements.
A bacterial infection of the gums, gingivitis is generally caused by poor dental hygiene habits or dental plaque overgrowth. These infections can cause your gums to develop white patches, recede, or overgrow your teeth.
Other symptoms associated with gingivitis are:
- Inflammation or redness around the gums
- Loose teeth
- Bleeding from flossing or brushing
If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis and cause tooth decay. This decay can lead to eventual tooth loss, so the bacteria causing the infection should be addressed as soon as it is noticed.
First and foremost, treating gingivitis involves brushing and flossing your teeth daily. Good hygiene is also the basis for ensuring that the build up of bad bacteria will not occur again.
Otherwise, you can treat most cases of gingivitis non-invasively through an intense dental cleaning or antibiotic medicine. However, if your gingivitis is severe, and you may have developed potential gum or bone tissue loss, you will need surgery.
These surgeries involve cleaning out plaque and tartar, before addressing the receding or overgrown gum line. The gums can be lifted back in place and sutured, reshaped along with bone tissue, or be grafted with tissue from the roof of your mouth to cover exposed tooth rot.
Commonly thought to be a condition caused by tobacco consumption, leukoplakia manifests as thick white or grey patches growing inside the mouth. Other irritants may cause these patches to form, with minor cases disappearing eventually on their own. More severe cases may be linked to oral cancer, however, notable by the red spots interspersed on the patches.
Leukoplakia patches take some weeks to develop on the gums, inside of your cheeks, under or on the tongue, and even on the lips. They are not usually painful, but they can cause the gums to turn white when located on the tissue.
While smoking is the most common cause of leukoplakia, you may also develop patches from:
- Poorly fitted dentures
- Injuries to the inside of the mouth
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Rough teeth
- Inflammatory conditions
For the most part, leukoplakia patches improve on their own time without any treatment. Some doctors may prescribe an antiviral medication or topical ointment with retinoic acid for persistent cases of leukoplakia.
However, you should keep an eye on long-lasting patches in case they are a sign of oral cancer. In this case, the patch must be removed immediately through laser therapy, freezing or a scalpel before the cancer can spread.
5. Oral cancer
While rare, some cases of white gums are not a sign of a person’s oral health, but rather a symptom of oral cancer. Also known as oral cavity cancer, this disease spreads quickly throughout the entire mouth; including the roof of your mouth, gums, throat and tongue.
The bumpy texture of the white, red or flesh-coloured patches can distinguish oral cancer cases. You may notice these patches coincide with other symptoms, including:
- Mouth sores that do not heal
- Loose teeth
- Difficulty or pain while swallowing
- A mass or growth in the mouth
- Neck lump
- Persistent earache
- Numbness around the face and neck
- Jaw and tongue stiffness or pain
- Significant weight loss
If you notice any of these signs, you need to book an appointment with your doctor immediately before the cancer spreads. While cancer can be genetic or due to a weak immune system, you should be wary of developing oral cancer if you have:
- Poor nutritional habits
- A previous diagnosis
An HPV infection
In the early stages of oral cancer, the tumours or cancerous tissues can be removed with surgery and targeted or radiation therapy. In more advanced cases, chemotherapy is necessary.
6. Oral Lichen Planus
An autoimmune condition that can cause white patches to develop on the tongue, mouth tissues and gums. Oral Lichen Planus may also cause the tissue to swell and become red, or develop open sores. It is not contagious, but rather a chronic disorder in which the immune system attacks the cells of the mouth thinking they are foreign cells to remove.
People diagnosed with Oral Lichen Planus are more susceptible to developing oral cancer, which means regular doctor or dental appointments to manage the pain and appearance of the patches.
Due to being a chronic autoimmune condition, there is no cure for Oral Lichen Planus. However, there are treatments to manage the pain or discomfort you may be experiencing. These include inflammation numbing gels or corticosteroid treatments, and in more severe cases you can be prescribed medications that suppress your body’s immune response.
7. Oral thrush
Caused by a yeast infection, oral thrush is signified by raised, creamy sores on the inside of your cheeks, the tongue, or the gums. A significant case of oral thrush can even cause the entirety of your gums to turn white from the patches’ cover, along with:
- A cottony sensation in the mouth, and/or burning or soreness
- Difficulty eating or swallowing
- The corners of your mouth cracking
- Loss of taste
It is common for babies, the elderly and the diabetic to be at a higher risk of developing oral thrush. Those with reduced immunity are also likely to develop thrush, and may find their case to be more severe and difficult to manage.
Fortunately, most cases of oral thrush are fairly easy to treat. Your doctor is likely to prescribe you with an anti-fungal medication to treat the yeast infection. If the sores persist, it is likely that your oral thrush is a symptom of an underlying cause like unclean dentures or steroid use.
8. Teeth whitening
If you get your teeth professionally whitened, you may notice that your gums are turning white. Luckily, this is a temporary discolouration caused by the chemicals used to brighten your teeth.
There is no treatment necessary for pale gums caused by teeth whitening. Your gums should return to their usual colour within a few hours or days of the procedure.
9. Tooth extraction
Much like the teeth whitening procedure, it is normal for your gums to turn white after a tooth extraction. This is due to the trauma inflicted on the gums around the extraction site.
No treatment is required in the case of a tooth extraction as the colour of your normal healthy gums should reappear within a few days.
Can white gums turn pink again?
White gums can turn pink again in a matter of hours or days when it comes to dental treatments like whitening or tooth extraction. For medical conditions like an autoimmune condition or gum disease, however, it may take longer for your gums to return to their normal colour.
With a carefully curated treatment plan, improved dental hygiene habits and some time, your gums should turn pink again for most conditions. This may take some time with chronic illnesses like Oral Lichen Planus, but controlling the appearance white gums and its corresponding symptoms is not impossible.
How long do white gums last
The length of time your gums will look pale for differs between each cause of white gums, with the shortest being teeth extraction or whitening at a few hours or days. Other conditions like canker sores or leukoplakia means your gums will take slightly longer to return to their normal colour after a proper diagnosis and treatment plan has begun.
When talking to your dentist about how to manage white gum conditions you are experiencing, you can ask how long your white gums are meant to last.
How to avoid white gums
While genetic or chronic conditions causing pale gums mostly cannot be avoided, those caused by gum disease or a buildup of bad bacteria can be. By maintaining your oral health, you will significantly lessen your chances of developing symptoms of white gums.
To avoid white gums, you can start these preventative care methods:
- Brush teeth every morning and night; using a soft or medium toothbrush to avoid irritating your gums
- Use alcohol free mouth rinse and floss at least once a day
- Eat a balanced diet; reduce sugar and alcohol consumption
- Stop smoking and chewing tobacco products
- Clean your tongue with a scraper to remove debris and bacteria
- Avoid any oral products that use sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) if you have sensitive mouth tissues
- If you have a chronic health condition, follow the prescribed treatment plan
- For those with irritated gums, rinse with salt-water to relieve any inflammation and pain
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers for pain
Most importantly, schedule to see a dentist at least twice a year as a deep clean will prevent the build up of harmful plaque and bacteria. Our experienced dentists at Putney Dental are more than capable of noticing initial gum discolouration.Signs of Infection After Root Canal Why Do You Have a Hole in Your Gums?
Latest from the Dental Blog
5 Ways To Keep Your Mouth Healthy
Brushing your teeth is an essential part of oral health but it is not the only part of keeping your…
Pregnancy & Your Oral Health
Pregnancy will affect nearly every part of a woman’s life and her oral health is one of them. To try…
What Are Your Teeth Whitening Options
Are you embarrassed and sick of your yellow, stained teeth? Enamel erosion and teeth discoloration from the consumption of coffee,…