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White or Pale Gums - Causes, Remedies & When to See a Dr.

Updated on August 2, 2022
Khushbu Gopalakrishnan Headshot
Written by Aaron Clarius
Medically Reviewed by Khushbu Gopalakrishnan

Why are my Gums White?

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.

3 Possible Causes of Pale Gums (+ Other Symptoms)

Here are three potential causes of pale or white gums: 

1. Anemia

Anemia is a lower-than-healthy level of normal red blood cells. It can have various underlying causes, including:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Digestive and immune illnesses such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease
  • Sickle cell disease, in which some red blood cells are abnormally shaped

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.

Other Symptoms

In addition to pale skin and gums, anemia may cause other symptoms. These symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat or palpitations
  • Dizziness or feeling that you may pass out
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Headaches
  • Bruising 
  • Magenta tongue 
  • Burning sensation in the mouth 

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.

2. Leukoplakia

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

Other Symptoms

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.

3. Leukemia

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

Other Symptoms

Leukemia can also cause symptoms such as:

  • Pale skin
  • Easy bruising
  • Enlarged spleen or liver
  • Fever
  • Other flu-like symptoms, such as chills, sweating, and fatigue

If you have swollen, whitened gums or any other of the above symptoms, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Other Causes of White Gums

Pale or white-patched gums may have other causes, such as:

  • Oral lichen planus, an autoimmune condition that causes white weblike or lacelike patterns in the oral cavity 
  • Oral thrush or candidiasis, an oral fungal infection that causes white patches on the tongue and/or gums
  • Hormonal changes during menopause
  • Dental treatments, such as tooth whitening or tooth removal (in these cases, the gums should return to normal within a few days)
  • Canker sores, which can appear white
  • Oral cancer, which can manifest as white spots or patches

When to See a Dentist

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.

How to Treat White or Pale Gums

Treatment varies for pale gums, depending on the cause. Possible treatments include:

  • Providing nutrients if you have a deficiency, such as iron or vitamin B12
  • Removing lesions or patches in cases of leukoplakia 
  • Medication, such as antibiotics or antifungals 
  • Gum disease treatments, such as scaling and root planing
  • Referring you to a doctor to rule out systemic causes, such as leukemia 

Home Remedies and Prevention

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

  • Maintaining good oral hygiene, including regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash 
  • Avoiding tobacco products
  • Moderating or stopping alcohol intake
  • Maintaining a balanced diet rich in micronutrients (this can include vitamin supplements)
  • Visiting a dentist at least twice a year
  • Following your doctor’s care instructions, especially if you have a chronic health condition

Summary

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.

Last updated on August 2, 2022
8 Sources Cited
Last updated on August 2, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Nisa, Shams U.I., et al. "Pigmentation of oral cavity: A clinical enigma; A rare case report." Journal of Indian Academy of Oral Medicine and Radiology vo. 28,3 : 342-345.
  2. Kalbassi, Salmeh, et al. "Comparative evaluation of oral and dento-maxillofacial manifestation of patients with sickle cell diseases and beta thalassemia major." Hematology vol. 23,6 : 373-378.
  3. Parlatescu, Loanina, et al. “Oral leukoplakia - an update.Maedica vol. 9,1 : 88-93.
  4. Mancheño Franch, Aisha et al. "Oral manifestations and dental management of patient with leukocyte alterations." Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry vol. 3,1 : e53-59.
  5. Rogers, Everett and Mike Cusnir. "Gingival Infiltration in Acute Monocytic Leukemia." The New England Journal of Medicine vol. 386,79 .
  6. Loesche, W J, and N S Grossman. “Periodontal disease as a specific, albeit chronic, infection: diagnosis and treatment.” Clinical microbiology reviews vol. 14,4 : 727-52
  7. Byrd, Kevin M., and Ajay S. Gulati. "The “Gum–Gut” Axis in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: A Hypothesis-Driven Review of Associations and Advances." Frontiers in Immunology vol 12:620124 .
  8. Woelber, J.P., et al. "An oral health optimized diet can reduce gingival and periodontal inflammation in humans - a randomized controlled pilot study." BMC Oral Health vol. 17,28 .
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