I Have White Gums! Why?

“White gums seem abnormal. But this morning I looked in the mirror while brushing my teeth and the gums are white. Why did this happen? What does it mean? What do I need to do?”

White gums typically indicate that something is wrong in your mouth. Yet there is no need to panic. White gums can be caused by canker sores or oral cancer or many other problems in between.white gums - paid -shutterstock 211849876

Leading Causes of White Gums

There are a number of common causes of white gums. Some are simple and easily treated. But they can be a symptom of oral cancer. What are these leading causes?

  1. Leukoplakia can turn parts of the gums white. Typically, white patches emerge that cannot be removed with your toothbrush. Although we do not know exactly what causes leukoplakia, many believe there is a connection with tobacco. Most cases are essentially harmless. However, some cases are precancerous or cancerous.
  2. Anemia can turn gums white. Usually caused by Vitamin B12 or Iron deficiencies, Crohn’s disease or celiac disease. Anemia involved a shortage of red blood cells, which carry oxygen and blood through your body. Many people with anemia have very pale skin. Sometimes this includes white gums.
  3. Canker sores can also turn portions of the mouth or gums white. These sores (ulcers) develop in the mouth or on the gums and may be painful. They tend to be oval or round and they typically are a light color in the center, ringed by red. These will not change the color of your entire mouth – just the area of the sore.
  4. Gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease (periodontitis). The most common cause of gingivitis is poor dental hygiene, although some conditions cause dry mouth which also contributes to the condition. About half of all Americans have gingivitis. In time, gingivitis can cause the gums to recede and turn white.
  5. Oral Lichen Planus produces lacy white patches on tongue, gums and inside the mouth. This chronic autoimmune condition may cause pain, gum inflammation, and bleeding gums. This condition puts people at risk of nutritional deficiencies and mouth infections of several kinds. It can also lead to oral cancer.
  6. Thrush is a yeast infection. This causes raised whitish sores on the inside of cheeks, on the tongue or on the gums. Older adults, diabetics, and babies are particularly susceptible to thrush.
  7. Extraction of a tooth. Occasionally, after extracting a tooth the immediately surrounding gums may turn white temporarily. They pink up in a few days.
  8. Professional tooth whitening. This process may cause the gums to appear brighter or white briefly. Normal color typically returns in a matter of hours
  9. Oral Cancer. One symptom of oral cancer is white gums. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 50,000 Americans will develop oral cancer or oropharyngeal cancer this year.

The causes of white gums can be difficult to differentiate, except those causes that clear up naturally in a matter of hours or days. It is vital that you see your dentist as soon as possible if your gums are white because oral cancer spreads very quickly. Tell the receptionist in your dentist’s office about the problem when you call for an appointment.

Other symptoms of oral cancer include

  • Other mouth sores
  • Bleeding inside your mouth
  • Growths or lumps in your mouth
  • Thickening of the skin inside your mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Pain in your tongue or jaw
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Sore throat

Treatment

The first step in treating white gums is a visit to your dentist. It is important to have a professional check of the area to rule out cancer and to identify the cause of your gums turning white. Different causes of white gums require different treatments. Your dentist will be able to identify the probable cause of the problem. She/he can then treat you or tell you how to treat the problem at home.

If you observe white gums, call to make an appointment with your dentist immediately. It is important to have an examination to rule out cancer or to identify it and begin appropriate treatment.

Although white gums usually are innocuous, sometimes they indicate cancer. My suggestion is that you not panic. Just see your dentist as soon as possible for an evaluation and appropriate treatment.

When we know there is a white gums issue, we make every effort to see you as soon as possible. If you observe white gums, call us for an appointment.