What Does Having White Gums Mean?
There are a number of things that can cause white gums, but no matter what the cause, white gums are almost always a sign that all is not well in parts of the mouth, and perhaps in other places in the body as well. Our gums are normally a pinkish-red color, or at least they should be. Some texts on the subject refer to coral red as being the optimum color for the gums, but a light red or pinkish red is generally a sign that the gums are in good health.
Gingivitis Is The Primary Reason
The medical term for the gums is the gingiva. Most of us have heard of gingivitis, and some of us may have even been told by our dentist that we have gingivitis. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gingiva, an inflammation of the gums. Gingivitis is one of the primary reasons people can experience white gums. The color of the gums will vary slightly from person to person, and the color is to some extent influenced by race, but it is generally somewhere between a light pinkish-red and a darker pinkish red. While the color of the gums is important, the uniformity of that color over the surfaces of the gums is just as important. Splotches or patches of color, other than pinkish-red, are usually a sign that something is wrong. Some people have gums that are unusually pale, though a pinkish red hue is detectable. As long as the gums are uniform in color, and there are no patches or splotches of a different color, their gums are probably healthy.
Improper Brushing Or Flossing Is Another Reason
Sometimes, a whitening of the gums only appears in those portions of the gum that come into direct contact of the teeth. This should be taken as a warning sign that the teeth are not being cleaned as well as they should be, and a better job needs to be done while brushing and flossing. White gum surfaces near the teeth indicate food particles have collected, which in turn means that plaque is beginning to form. Plaque consists of bacteria. If left unattended, the result will be a cavity, a case of gingivitis, or possibly both.
A Thrush Infection Can Cause White Gums
Another cause of white gums is a fungal infection commonly known as thrush. The culprit is Candida albicans, a yeast that is normally found in the mouth and elsewhere in the body. C. albicans is generally harmless, but occasionally can get out of control. If this yeast infection is what is causing the gums to be white, it’s highly likely that other parts of the mouth, such as the tongue or the roof of the mouth, may also have a few white patches. This fungus can usually be scraped off as a temporary solution, but it will likely be necessary to have a medication prescribed that will permanently cure the condition. C. albicans will generally do no harm to the gums while present, but if it is allowed to spread unchecked, it could infect other parts of the body, and if so, it can become potentially lethal.
Tobacco Use And Immune System Problems
Two other causes of white gums are tobacco products and a compromised immune system. The latter is not always preventable or easily cured, but those who smoke or chew tobacco can at least try to stop, as they are at a fairly high risk of experiencing a loss of color in the gums, which means the gums are no longer as healthy as they should be, and therefore are susceptible to gingivitis, or possibly another condition known as leukoplakia, where the white spots or patches resulting from the use of tobacco are potentially cancerous. When the immune system is at fault, it is the immune system and not the gums that will require treatment if the normal color of the gums is to be restored.
Avoid Periodontitis At All Costs
It is gingivitis however, that is far and away the most prevalent cause of white gums. Gingivitis is a condition that must be treated, since if it is not adequately treated, or left unattended, it can advance to a condition known as periodontitis, a condition that is far more serious, and one that can result in permanent damage to the gums, to the jawbones, and a possible loss of teeth. Once periodontitis has entered the picture, the gums will likely no longer be uniformly white, although white patches may be present, but are more apt to take on a very deep red or a purplish color. The gums will also tend to bleed quite easily.
If you notice whitening of the gums near where they make contact with the teeth, strive to do a better job of brushing or flossing. If that fails, see your dentist. If the white color on the gums can be wiped away, Candida albicans is the likely source of the problem. Medication may be needed to kill the fungus off. In any event, take any whitening of the gums or on any part of the gums, as a warning sign. If your gums start to turn purple, it may not be too late to do anything about it, but it’s getting there. If tobacco is the cause, consider trying to stop smoking or chewing it.