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Healthy gums are generally pink, like the surrounding tissues of the mouth (oral mucosa). Some conditions can cause the gums to become pale or spotted with white areas.
Contact a dentist or doctor if you notice your gums have become pale or white. The underlying cause might be serious and require medical treatment.
Contact your dentist if you notice any changes in the color or texture of your gums, inner lips, or inner cheeks. They can identify the underlying cause and treat it.
Here are three potential causes of pale or white gums:
Anemia is a lower-than-healthy level of normal red blood cells. It can have various underlying causes, including:
This lack of healthy red blood cells can make the gums appear pale.1, 2 It can also cause the skin to be paler than usual.
In addition to pale skin and gums, anemia may cause other symptoms. These symptoms may include:
Anemia is treatable, and some underlying causes, such as nutrient deficiencies, have cures. Others, such as sickle cell anemia, require ongoing treatment.
If you have symptoms of anemia, contact a doctor as soon as possible.
Leukoplakia is characterized by thick white or gray patches on the gums or other mouth tissues. These patches may cover a wide area of your gums, making them appear pale.
The exact causes of leukoplakia are unclear, but tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, and chronic irritation may all play a role.
This condition can be precancerous. This means that, compared to normal tissues, areas with leukoplakia have a higher chance of developing cancer.3
Leukoplakic patches are generally painless. They feel hard to the touch. Unlike lesions caused by yeast infections, they can’t be rubbed away.
Visit your doctor if you suspect you have leukoplakia. They can biopsy the patches and monitor any changes over time.
Leukemia is a term that includes several kinds of cancers that affect the blood cells. It can affect the color and appearance of the gums. It may cause them to bleed or show signs of inflammation.4
In one case, a woman’s white, swollen gums were an important part of her leukemia diagnosis. Her gums began to return to normal after beginning chemotherapy.5
Leukemia can also cause symptoms such as:
If you have swollen, whitened gums or any other of the above symptoms, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Pale or white-patched gums may have other causes, such as:
Treatment varies for pale gums, depending on the cause. Possible treatments include:
While home remedies may not address the underlying cause of pale gums, they can manage other symptoms. You can also reduce your risk for certain conditions that may cause your gums to turn white or pale. You can do this by:6, 7, 8
Various conditions can cause gums to appear white or unusually pale. The most likely and potentially serious causes include anemia, leukoplakia, and leukemia. Other less common conditions can cause gums to have white streaks or patches.
These conditions also include other symptoms that usually resolve with professional treatment. Contact your doctor or dentist to determine the best treatment course for your needs.
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