Our bodies are amazing machines that like to communicate with us when they are healthy or when there might be something wrong. That’s right, there are little tells happening all the time indicating our current levels of health. This information is likely nothing new, but at Carolina Dental Choice we think it’s important for you to recognize a not-so-common sign that your oral health may be in danger.
Paying close attention to your gums is incredibly important. We all know the necessity of flossing and brushing and making sure those gums are not receding, but what about when areas of the gums begin to turn white? What is your body trying to tell you when this happens? White spots on the gums are more common than not, but most people do not understand the possible dangers that could arise because of them. Let’s take a look at some of the probable causes of white gums.
What White Gums Could Mean
Unfortunately, noticing a white coloration on your gums could mean a number of different things, and they all have varying levels of seriousness. That being said, as long as you catch it in time and know the possible reasons, you can get your oral health right back where it needs to be. Here are some possible reasons for white gums:
- Leukoplakia: this is an oral disease where white or gray coloration appears on or around the gums. These light spots are created due to mucous membranes that are sensitive and quite painful. Think canker sores, only on your gums! Leukoplakia is often caused by long-term tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, poorly fitting dental appliances, mouth injury, or bodily maladies such as cancer and HIV. If you find painful, white sores on your gums, the best thing to do is see a dentist immediately. Whether it is leukoplakia or not, your gums should never be white.
- Anemia: this is a tough one because it can produce in many different forms, making it difficult to identify. The best way to diagnose an anemia is to notice if the white coloration on your gums is paired with any of the following happenings:
-cold hands and feet
-spells of dizziness
-shortness of breath
-spells of irregular heartbeat
Another tell to anemia is sudden whiteness of skin beyond just the gums. Some common causes of anemia include vitamin B12 and iron deficiencies, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease. This is definitely one you want to take care of right away. If you feel any of these symptoms could be true for you, make a dental appointment as soon as possible.
- Mouth Ulcers: noticing white spots on your gums could indicate oncoming ulcers. This is much less serious than the previous causes of white gums, but these sores are no fun at all. If you feel the white spots on your gums could be connected to ulcers, it’s a good idea to begin washing your mouth out with salt water. This is a great way to keep them away and the inside of your mouth healthy. Some causes of mouth ulcers are sugary foods and drinks, as well as, tobacco use. There is no need to completely cut these out of your diet, but regulation is a must.
- Gingivitis: this is a mild form of gum disease that is fairly common among American adults. If you notice your gums beginning to recede and turn white, gingivitis is most likely the culprit. A few other signs include swollen and bleeding gums, even painful irritation and loose teeth. The most common cause to gingivitis is poor oral care, so if you have fallen off the wagon a bit, it’s best to get right back into the routine of brushing and flossing regularly to keep from this uncomfortable situation.
- Lichen Planus: this chronic autoimmune condition can inflame the gums and begin to turn them white in lacy patches. Symptoms to lichen planus are similar to gingivitis, but regular dental check-ups can keep this condition from inflammation.
- Candidiasis: simply put, this is a yeast infection that causes creamy white sores on the gums. This type of infection is usually seen in babies and older adults, and is often brought on by diabetes. If you happen to fit any of these categories, it is important to maintain a strict teeth-and-gum cleaning schedule and keep up with your dental appointments. Two appointments a year is recommended, but in this case you might benefit more from three or four check-ups a year.
- Oral Cancer: if you ever notice white bumps or growths on your gums, or if you suddenly find it difficult to chew or swallow, see a dentist right away. Most importantly, though, don’t panic. White growths or raised sections on the gums do not always equate to cancer, and even if they do, the faster you get them looked at the better your chances of having them safely removed.
How to Prevent White Gums
The good news is that you don’t have to just sit around and hope your gums don’t start turning white. There are a number of preventative measures to be taken that can keep your oral health at its peak. Here are a few we at Carolina Dental Choice recommend:
- Begin by brushing correctly. The best way to keep white spots from appearing on your gums is to brush in small, circular motions. This will keep the toothbrush bristles from pushing your gums away from your teeth, which causes irritations that can lead to any of the conditions previously listed.
- Floss every day: despite a completely false rumor floating around lately, flossing is incredibly important for your oral health. This keeps food from resting between your teeth, which begins to rot and aid in gum disease. Floss every morning or at night right before bed. Be sure not to jam the floss down on your gums. Use soft, clean motions, going back and forth. Hit every area between the teeth and rinse with water or mouthwash after.
- Stop using tobacco: this can be a touchy subject, but using tobacco of any form greatly increases the odds of various gum diseases. Quitting smoking or chewing tobacco is much easier said than done, but if you are a user, at least try and reduce how much tobacco comes in contact with your mouth. Your gums will thank you!
- Watch your diet: sugary drinks and foods, alcoholic beverages, even fatty meats can all have a negative effects on your gums. As stated earlier, you don’t necessarily have to cut these things out of your diet completely, but if you are the type of person who enjoys these on a regular basis, try and cut back a bit. At the very least, make sure you brush your teeth right after eating or drinking sugary or fatty substances.
The biggest thing to remember is not to panic. Have fun, enjoy good food and drink. Just be smart about it. Brush and floss regularly, and MOST IMPORTANT: come see us at Carolina Dental Choice. We have the capability to detect oral health issues, often before they become apparent even to you. We can then advise you on exactly what steps need to be taken to reduce and eventually eliminate any possible disease or irritations.