Many people are forced to ask the question at one point or another: What does it mean when your gums are white? Like any medical condition, it can be somewhat unnerving to wake up and find something to be off about your body. What is the cause of pale gums? Is it dangerous? What can you do to treat it?
White gums are a symptom of several medical conditions, so it’s a good idea to see a dentist or other medical professional to determine exactly what’s affecting if you if there’s doubt. However, many of these conditions are easy to spot, with some having reliable home treatments you can use to mitigate symptoms (though, again, a medical professional should always be the first choice for more serious conditions). Let’s examine what white gums could mean and how you might be able to treat them.
What Is the Cause of White Gums?
As mentioned previously, white gums can be a symptom of several medical conditions. While most are relatively easy to manage, some are more serious and will require medical aid. For this reason, it is best to consult a dentist or doctor if you are at all unsure of what your condition may be, or if something feels wrong.
One of the most common causes for white gums is having a tooth pulled. If you’ve recently lost a tooth or had one pulled by a dentist, the space where it once sat may appear pale or white. This is due to the trauma of having a tooth removed from that area of your gums and should return to normal within a few days provided there is no serious injury or issue.
White gums could also be the result of chemical teeth whitening. For several hours after a whitening treatment, it is not uncommon for a patient’s gums to have whitened. This is perfectly normal and your gums will return to normal usually by the end of the day at the latest.
Oral Candidiasis (Thrush)
As for diseases, one ailment that can cause gum whitening is oral candidiasis, aka thrush. Thrush is a mild yeast infection that occurs on the inside of the mouth and tongue, including gums. The infection can look either white or red and generally affects toddlers and infants, though is rarely very serious.
Leukoplakia is a condition that causes thick patches of white flesh on the inside of the mouth. Most commonly caused by smoking, these patches are often tough and painful, sometimes appearing hairy due to how thick they can become. Rarely, there may be red spots on these patches, which may be a sign of oral cancer.
Oral cancer itself could be a reason for white gums. It’s often identified through small bumps across the gums, either white, red, or flesh colored. However, oral cancer may not display any symptoms, making it hard to detect in certain instances and critical that you see a dentist should you suspect there is even a chance of a serious oral condition.
Gingivitis might also be the cause of white gums. It is an infection that happens due to poor tooth care allowing the buildup of bacteria in the mouth. If this is the case, the gums will likely have receded and often bleed when brushed or flossed. They might also appear inflamed in areas and teeth may have loosened.
Canker sores refer to a form of ulcer found in the mouth. While they do not turn large portions of the gum white, the large bumps they cause are often yellow or white in the center, giving portions of the mouth a white coloration.
Finally, anemia is another cause of gum whiteness. Anemia is simply a lack of oxygenated blood to an area of the body; in this case, the gums. Various issues can cause anemia, from blood loss to vitamin deficiencies to certain diseases. If anemia is the cause of gum whiteness, it will be apparent in that other portions of your body will likely be pale, as well, and various other symptoms like weakness, dizziness, and irregular heartbeat will be present.
Possible Quick Solutions for White Gums
Yogurt (Thrush Treatment)
While the best cure for thrust is through oral antifungals, one easy way to help mitigate symptoms and promote healing is eating unsweetened yogurt. In addition to yogurt’s many benefits, the live bacteria cultures can help to balance out the good and bad forms of bacteria found in your mouth and body, potentially aiding medication in killing off the fungus. The coldness may also help to sooth some of the pain associated with thrush.
There are few risks that come from eating yogurt (exceptions including those with lactose intolerance, young children, or those with compromised immune systems). As such, it is likely safe to use as a preliminary treatment if you are unsure of the cause of gum whiteness. Be mindful, though, that yogurt can interfere with the antibiotics tetracycline and ciprofloxacin.
Honey (Canker Sore Treatment)
One of the easiest ways to help a canker sore heal is by applying raw honey to it. Raw honey is naturally antiviral and antibacterial, killing off infectious agents it comes in contact with. Apply a small amount of honey to canker sores in the mouth can help to relieve pain and disinfect the ulcers, aiding in healing.
Honey is generally not safe for infants and small children, as spore-based ailments can survive in honey unlike other types of disease. While likely not an issue for adults, those under 12 months of age or those with weakened immune systems could contract these ailments.
Vitamin Supplements (Anemia Treatment)
If anemia comes from vitamin deficiency, the easiest way to treat it is with over the counter vitamin supplements. Taking supplements by mouth daily or as instructed on the bottle is a good way to help replenish your body’s source of vitamins you aren’t getting through other means.
It’s important to consider any side effects listed on the particular brand of vitamins you’re using. Additionally, as you likely won’t be able to tell what kind of vitamins you like that might be causing your anemia, it’s best to have a blood test done by a medical facility if you intend to take a specific kind of vitamin supplement rather than a multivitamin.
Saltwater Rinse (Thrush Treatment)
Rinsing your mouth with a salt water solution can help to treat thrush. Mix a half teaspoon of salt into a glass of water and rinse thoroughly for a minute before spitting and rinsing with clean water, repeating daily throughout the length of the disease. Salt’s natural antiseptic properties can help to kill off the fungal spores, and the rinsing motion can pull fungus out of the mouth. It can also help to relieve some of the pain, though the harsh taste of salt water might also be somewhat off-putting.
Milk of Magnesia (Canker Sore Treatment)
Magnesium hydroxide, otherwise known as milk of magnesia, can help to eliminate canker sores. Useful in killing bacteria, reducing pain, and promoting healing, you can easily apply this solution directly to sores with a cotton swab. Do this procedure a few times each day over the course of the sore’s lifespan. It works particularly well if you do the same with a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water first.
It is important to be careful when using milk of magnesia. Though unlikely given the small amount used here, milk of magnesia is a common laxative and ingesting too much could cause diarrhea. More serious side effects could include stomach cramps and vomiting, though these are unlikely unless you ingest a large amount. Do not use it if you have a kidney disease.
Now you’ll no longer need to ask, “What does it mean when your gums are white?” While certain causes of white gums might be more severe than others, you can easily identify and treat some of them at home. Always contact a medical professional if your symptoms worsen or you feel something may be wrong. If you have any experience treating some of the causes of white gums, tell us about it and share any other home remedies you might have learned over the years.