The fashion gods often say white clothing looks great on everyone. However, almost all dentists would agree that having white gums is not a good look on anyone and is often indicative of oral health problems. If you notice your gums are turning (or have turned) this pale hue, here are two possible causes and what you can do to fix the issue.
Irritation or Inflammation
When gums are irritated, they generally turn a red inflamed color. In some cases, though, the gums will turn white instead. It's a common side effect of contact with tooth whitening or bleaching products. However, other possible causes include leftover food particles, chipped or broken teeth, and allergic reactions to dental care products.
If your gums have changed color due to contact with a tooth whitening product, the tissue should return to its normal hue within 24 to 72 hours after you stop using it. You can prevent the problem from returning by taking care to keep the bleaching solution away from gums in the future. This may require having your dentist refit your dental trays if you're using a professional product or taking a few extra moments to clean your gums after using the teeth whitener to remove any excess solution.
Gum irritation caused by leftover food particles will typically show up as white spots along the gum line where the teeth and gums meet. This is usually the result of inadequate brushing and flossing. Stepping up your oral care regime and getting professional cleanings as recommended by your dentist can help resolve this problem.
Allergic reactions to your toothpaste will usually cause the onset of several symptoms besides white gums, such as cracked or chapped lips, increased tooth sensitivity, swelling of the tongue, and irritation of other oral tissues. These symptoms generally show up soon after you start using the product, so it should be easy to pinpoint what the problem is. However, you can have your diagnosis confirmed by talking to your dentist or family doctor. Your gums should return to normal after switching to using different toothpaste.
Chipped or broken teeth can irritate gums because you may develop an infection in the area if the tooth is broken around the root. This is likely the case if the gums are only white around the damaged tooth, and you're exhibiting signs of an abscessed tooth such as pain, fever, bitter taste in the mouth, and sores. This issue can only be fixed by a dentist, so making an appointment to have the tooth repaired or pulled is your best option for resolving the associated white gums.
Another common cause of white gums is an oral infection called thrush. This is a fungal infection of the mouth caused by the Candida fungus, the same entity responsible for vaginal infections. Like bacteria, small amounts of this fungus are always present on the body and in the mouth. However, it can reproduce out of control and lead to a full-blown infection due to a number of reasons, including the use of corticosteroids and antibiotics, dry mouth, and systemic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and HIV.
Thrush shows up as white spots on the gums, cheeks, and the tongue. The lesions will come off if you scrape them using your fingernail or toothbrush, though the underlying tissue may bleed. Other symptoms of thrush include fever, difficulty swallowing, soreness, and pain.
This oral infection is treated using antifungal medication that must be taken for up to 14 days. Since thrush is often a sign of an underlying health problem, preventing it from returning may require treating a medical condition that's causing the fungus to propagate (e.g., get diabetes under control).
There are a couple of other reasons why gums may turn white including the onset of periodontal disease or an oral cancer called Leukoplakia that's associated with the use of tobacco products. Discuss the issue with a dentist like Scott W. Murphy, D.M.D., P.A. to obtain a definitive diagnosis and treatment recommendation.