What Makes Gums Look White?

Could It Be Cancer?

Your gums, when healthy, will normally be uniformly pink. Certain health conditions, mostly inside your mouth, can cause them to turn white, or a lighter shade of pink than normal. When you find that you have white gums, there is a health concern and you should see a dentist.

There are several possible dental problems that originate from other health conditions that can cause white gums. They include:

  • Anemia

Anemia is the one problem that can cause white gums that do not originate with your mouth or teeth. It is caused by an insufficient number of red blood cells in the body. Without a healthy amount of these cells, it means that your body and organs are not getting enough oxygen. Most likely, your skin may also be pale. Other symptoms may include weakness, fatigue, an irregular heartbeat, dizziness, hands and feet, and shortness of breath. Several medical conditions can lead to anemia, which includes problems with the spleen, liver or kidneys, very heavy menstruation, hypothyroidism, pregnancy, bleeding in the stomach or intestines, and chemotherapy. 

  • Oral Thrush

Oral thrush, also called oral candidiasis, is a yeast infection that occurs in the mouth. It is the same fungus that causes vaginal yeast infections. It can go from the lining of your mouth to your tongue or gums. It is creamy white in appearance and medication will be needed to eliminate it.

  • Vitamin K Deficiency

If you have a deficiency of vitamin K, it can cause your gums to look white. The vitamin is very important because it enables the blood to clot, which helps stop bleeding. Other symptoms you may have that indicate a shortage of this vitamin include irritability, bruising, dark stools, seizures, and pale skin.

  • Leukoplakia

Leukoplakia forms thick white spots on your gums, inner cheeks, tongue, and bottom of your mouth. The patches are irregular in shape and can become hard. On some occasions, the white patches may form alongside red patches, called erythroplakia, and these may sometimes become cancerous. Most often, they occur in the elderly and among smokers. The cause is still unknown.

  • Oral Cancer

Cancer in the mouth can occur in any part of your mouth or throat. It is often painless and may appear as a white spot on your gums, but oral cancer comes in many forms. Because it often spreads fast and is often fatal, you should have any sores in your mouth looked at by a dentist if they do not disappear after two weeks. 

  • Teeth Whitening

Sometimes the chemicals used in getting your teeth white will also turn your gums white. This problem will likely go away after a few hours, and then they should return to their normal color.

  • Gum Disease

If plaque is left on the teeth for prolonged periods, the bacteria that cause plaque will irritate the gums and produce gum disease. At first, gum disease is called gingivitis in the early stages, and then it becomes periodontitis. 

In the early stage, gingivitis can normally be removed by brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing. If allowed to continue due to a lack of improved oral hygiene, it becomes periodontitis. Once this happens, a dentist will be needed to remove it and stop progressive damage – which may include losing some teeth. 


Why Gum Disease Is a Problem

Recent studies have revealed that there is a connection between gum disease and many other serious health conditions. The exact process is not yet known, but it is clear that people with periodontitis have a much higher risk of problems such as cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, cancer, dementia, and many more. 


Causes of Gum Disease

While the primary cause of gum disease is a lack of brushing and flossing, there are other factors that will increase your risk even with regular brushing and flossing. These things include:

  • Female hormones
  • Smoking
  • Genetics
  • Vitamin C deficiency
  • Diabetes
  • Female contraceptives
  • Crowns and fillings that no longer fit well
  • Dry mouth

Smoking has been long known to be behind the formation of gum disease. The nicotine reduces the flow of blood in the gums, which means that the amount of oxygen is also reduced, and so are the nutrients. This also reduces the strength of the gum’s immune system, which enables it to spread faster and cause more damage in less time. These conditions are also ideal for oral cancer to develop.


White gums reveal that there is a health problem. While it often is not serious, it still may need treatment to remedy the problem.  Get an oral exam and gum disease treatment – if needed, from Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS, a Board Certified Periodontist. He can help identify problems with your gums and mouth, and treat them, too. Having healthy gums will help you keep your teeth longer. His offices are in the Carrollton, Cedar hill, Mockingbird/SMU, and Grapevine, TX areas. Most dental health plans are accepted. For a FREE dental consultation or information about periodontal treatment, you can contact his office today 214-731-0123