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What Causes White Gums?

Chewing tobacco can cause white gums.
A woman with healthy gums.
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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2014
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White gums are commonly caused by the gum disease gingivitis, a yeast infection, or tobacco usage. Lesions in the mouth are frequently caused by tobacco, both smoked or chewed, and generally appear white. This deviation in gum color is also often seen in people with a compromised immune system. White gums should not be confused with pale pink gums, which are usually considered a healthy color. Unhealthy gums that appear white are usually not uniform in color, and white patches may be found on the inner cheek, tongue, and gums of the affected person.

Candida albicans is a form of yeast that lives in the mouth and normally does not negatively affect humans. If the yeast begins to multiply more than usual, the affected person will usually notice white lesions on her inner cheeks and tongue. These lesions may also appear on the gums and the back of the throat, but this is less common. The infection can eventually move to other parts of the body and even lead to death if it is not treated. Candidiasis is an extremely common fungal infection, however, and doctors can usually prescribe antibiotics to cure it before it worsens.

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The term leukoplakia refers to undiagnosed white patches in parts of the mouth, such as the tongue and gums. White gums are often associated with smoking or chewing tobacco, and some doctors believe the spots can become cancerous. It is generally recommended that the affected person stop using tobacco and avoid anything else that can potentially irritate the gums. A person's doctor may also determine that removing the lesions from the cheeks, gums, or tongue is the best option, especially if they are cancerous or have the potential to become cancerous.

It is generally recommended to see a dentist every six months, but white gums should be brought to a health professional’s attention as soon as possible, whether it is a dentist or a doctor. Besides eliminating the use of tobacco, white gums can usually be treated with proper dental hygiene, which a dentist can give advice on. In some cases, such as a yeast infection of the mouth, antibiotics must be prescribed by a doctor to completely rid the gums of the infection. Some people, like heavy tobacco users, might need to see a dentist as often as every three months due to the effects smoking or chewing have on the teeth and mouth.

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Discuss this Article

shell4life
Post 9

I have had canker sores in my cheeks and in the area behind my lips before, but I've never had them actually on my gums. Is it possible to develop these white sores on your gums?

They look like white craters, and they stay irritated all the time. Acidic things like oranges and tomatoes really make the pain worse.

lighth0se33
Post 8

@browncoat – You are right about white gums indicating anemia. I found a puppy in the road that was nearly starved to death, and his gums were ghostly pale.

The vet told me that it indicated that he was severely anemic. He had to take liquid nutritional supplements for a few weeks to build his strength back up, in addition to eating regular puppy food filled with nutrients.

I am happy to report that he recovered wonderfully from the anemia. Today, he weighs 60 pounds and has healthy, pink gums.

giddion
Post 7

@OeKc05 – Yes, my doctor told me the same thing. I had white stuff on my gums, and my doctor prescribed antifungal medicine. That's different from antibiotics.

If you do have a yeast infection and need to take antibiotics for any other reason, though, you can eat yogurt with live cultures to prevent the antibiotics from worsening the yeast infection. I have had to do this before, and it worked.

OeKc05
Post 6

If the white spots on your gums are caused by a yeast infection, can that be treated with antibiotics? My doctor always told me that taking antibiotics for some other condition while I had a yeast infection was bad, because the antibiotics kill the good bacteria that fight the yeast and can actually cause the infection to worsen.

Fa5t3r
Post 5

@heath925 - I didn't realize that white gums could be associated with gingivitis either. I actually thought I had abnormally pale gums for a long time because my friend commented on them and it turned out she was comparing them with her own which had a touch of gum disease and were therefore much a darker red.

But I guess if gums are hit by disease they might not be white, so much as the sore spot would be white (possibly because of infection).

I don't think that my friend had any soreness though, I've never asked her. Anyone else suffered from that?

browncoat
Post 4

@write79 - Most likely it's just the bacteria in your mouth growing overnight. It's a bit strange that they grow so quickly however and could be a sign of a weakened immune system. It's definitely something you'd want to bring up with your dentist or doctor the next time you visit them.

I would also like to add that people with white gums around their teeth or when they put pressure on the gums might also be suffering from low iron levels. Gums are light your fingernails and are an easy way to show whether your iron levels are good. They won't look white in patches, just faded out and will be slow to regain color if you press on them.

heath925
Post 3

I always thought that gingivitis was associated with red or bleeding gums. I didn't know that white gums could be an indication too.

If gingivitis is the problem, would you have sore gums also?

write79
Post 2

If I happen to fall asleep before brushing my teeth, I sometimes notice a white film on my gums in the morning. This goes away when I brush my teeth.

Could this be related to any of these serious problems, or is it a completely different, and hopefully benign, issue?

calpat
Post 1

Thank you so much for this information. I have a friend who has white patches on his gums. I had never seen anything like this before, and I have been very concerned about him. He seems to think it's no big deal and will just go away.

It sounds like it could be an indication of some pretty serious problems though. I don't want to see anything bad happen to him. He doesn't smoke or chew tobacco, so I don't think it will turn out to be cancerous, but it's best to have it checked out either way.

Hopefully when I let him know what I have learned, he will get to the dentist.

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