Gum Discoloration: What Causes Gums to Turn Black or White?

Gum Discoloration: What Causes Gums to Turn Black or White?When you think of a great set of teeth and gums, you probably imagine pearly white teeth and healthy pink gums. So if you happen to notice that your gums have turned black, grey, or white, you may be quite concerned. While some gum discoloration is a natural occurrence, other discoloration can be hazardous to your health and require serious attention. Here are the main causes of and reasons for gum discoloration.

Naturally Darker Gums

A natural reason that a person may have darker gums that are black or dark brown is skin pigment balance. Just as skin color can vary, so can gum color. For some people, often of non-Caucasian descent, gums can have spotted darkness or may not be pink at all. This is due to the increase of melanin production in the body and is as normal as the skin of one person being darker than the skin of another’s.

Cigarettes and Medication

Some people may have discolored gums from smoking cigarettes or taking certain medications such as minocycline, tricyclic antidepressants, or metal-based crown fillings. If you notice gum discoloration after you start taking a new medication, consult your doctor for possible alternatives.

Disease & Conditions

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There are also other reasons for gum discoloration that cause a higher concern. First is acute necrotizing periodontal disease, also referred to as black gum disease. This black discoloration of the gums is due to dead tissue, or necrosis. This is a serious health issue, with symptoms that can also include bleeding gums, strong pain, and a foul smelling mouth. Along with improper oral care, the causes of this disease can include stress, smoking, viral infections, and HIV. If left untreated, the disease can spread to your cartilage and then bone, causing very serious health concerns. You can treat acute necrotizing periodontal disease with antibiotics or by surgically removing the dead tissue. Click here to see how we treat severe gum disease, or periodontitis, at Water Tower Dental Care in Chicago.
Another condition that can make your gums appear gray in color is acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis. This condition creates a gray film that builds up on top of the gums. This is caused by poor dental hygiene, but is rarely seen today. The disease was often referred to as “trench mouth,” because World War I soldiers would often contract the disease after not taking care of their mouth for weeks at a time.

Conditions That Cause White Gums

White gums can be caused by several things. The first being what is called thrush, a fungal infection of the mouth. To treat this, you can contact your dentist, who will scrape off the fungus from areas of the gums and give you proper instructions on how to keep the fungus from returning.
Another cause of white gums is a condition known as leukoplakia, a precancerous condition that often occurs due to tobacco or alcohol. This condition also calls for a dentist to be consulted to take steps to prevent any further damage.

How to Battle Gum Discoloration

Of course, the best way to battle gum discoloration is by practicing proper oral care and brushing and flossing everyday along with visiting a dentist once every six months. If you have any more questions about gum discoloration, do not hesitate to contact Water Tower Dental, Chicago's #1 rated dentistry, or request an appointment by clicking on the green button at the top of the page. We can help you identify what is causing your gum discoloration to put your mind at ease. We're also experts at treating gum disease with both surgical and non-surgical techniques.