We all want our teeth to live up to the standard of pearly whites (and there are some fairly easy ways to get some white teeth of your own), but the same principle most definitely does not apply to our gums. It’s important to remember that pink gums are healthy gums, even though these tissues can actually stand a reasonable amount of pain, temperature, and pressure (via Britannica).
Caven Dental Group says gums are an important indicator of overall oral health — in fact, dentists not only look for cavities, but they also look out for the color of your gums when you go in for a check-up. If you notice your gums are showing up as anything but a robust pink, it may be time to see a dentist to ensure nothing is amiss.
What it means when your gums have white spots or white streaks
Unfortunately, gums can’t be pink all the time. Every now and then, you can get canker sores or mouth ulcers, which are usually round or oval, white or pale, and have a red border (via 123 Dentist). They can appear anywhere inside your mouth, including on your gums. No one knows what causes them, but they are generally linked to eating a ton of citrus fruit or sugary food, as well as small cuts caused by braces, toothbrushes — or when you bite yourself accidentally. Canker sores make speaking, drinking, or eating a real pain, but these are not dangerous and generally resolve themselves in a week or so.
If you see white streaks, you could be looking at oral thrush or a yeast infection, which shows up as creamy white sores on the gums, tongue, and on the inside of the cheeks. Babies, older people, and people who suffer from diabetes are at greater risk of developing oral thrush. Another cause of white streaks in the mouth area is oral lichen planus, which is an autoimmune disorder. If you suspect that you have either oral thrush or oral lichen planus, it is best to see a doctor, who can tell you if a course of medication is needed to bring your gums back into the pink of health (via Medical News Today).
What it means when your gums have more than just a white spot or two
Gums that are completely white, though, could be a sign of a deeper underlying medical condition. Experts note white gums are a possible sign of anemia, which doesn’t just affect your mouth but your entire body. Anemia is caused by an iron or vitamin B12 deficiency, which results in a lack of healthy blood cells and can leave you feeling tired and weak (via Mayo Clinic).
Gums can also turn pale as a result of leukoplakia, a condition that can also make white patches appear on your tongue, at the bottom of your mouth, and on the inside of your cheeks. The spots may not be painful in the way canker sores are, but they are uncomfortable nonetheless. Some sites recommend a visit to the doctor as soon as leukoplakia is suspected, because their appearance has been linked to cancer, especially if leukoplakia show up next to red lesions.
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