When our mouth and gums are healthy they will appear pink and are firm and resistant to movement. But when something is amiss in a person’s oral health, the tissue can turn white or develop sores. There can be many conditions and situations that can lead to white gums so it is important to see your dentist regularly, especially when you see changes in the tissue. Dr. Reisman and Dr. Contrucci of C R Dental Group remind you that, although usually harmless, if left untreated, it can develop into something more serious. And in rare cases, could actually be an indication of oral cancer.

According to Medical News Today, the following conditions and situations can lead to white gums:

  • Leukoplakia – Found to be related to tobacco use, it causes white patches on the gums that cannot be removed with a toothbrush. Although typically harmless, do not ignore as some can be precancerous. A doctor may treat with antiviral drugs or choose to remove with laser or by freezing off.
  • Anemia – Generally occurs from iron and vitamin B12 deficiencies, Crohn’s disease and celiac disease. Accompanied by fatigue, weakness, cold hands and feet, and shortness of breath, people with anemia may also have pale skin, including skin on the gums causing them to look white. Dietary changes and vitamin supplements are necessary to manage chronic health conditions.
  • Canker sores – Usually round or oval lesions that develop in the mouth or on the gums. They can be painful when eating or speaking. Relief can be achieved with oral steroids, oral ointments and salt water rinses.
  • Gingivitis – A mild form of gum disease commonly caused from poor dental hygiene. Can cause irritated, swollen gums and lead to recession. Regular dental hygiene care can prevent further periodontal issues.
  • Oral thrush – A yeast infection that causes raised, creamy white sores on the inside of the cheeks, tongue or gums. Babies, older adults and people with diabetes are at greater risk. Antifungalmedication may be prescribed for treatment.
  • Oral Cancer – According to the American Cancer Society, 51,000 Americans will get oral cancer in 2018. White gums are a symptom and can spread quickly. Other signs to be aware of are mouth sores that are slow to heal, growths or lumps, sore throat or thickening of the skin inside the mouth.

It is important to have regular dental checkups, and make sure your doctor and/or hygienist does a thorough oral examination that includes oral cancer screening. You should see your dentist at least twice a year, more often if periodontal disease is an issue. Always talk to your dentist and hygienist about any concerns you may have, or if any unusual issues arise. Being proactive with your oral health could quite possibly save your life some day!