Why Are My Gums Pale?

Medically reviewed by Alana Biggers, MD on September 29, 2017Written by Lana Bandoim

Overview

While gums are usually light pink, they can sometimes become pale in both adults and children. Several conditions can cause this, and pale gums may indicate a more serious health problem. It’s important to talk to your doctor or dentist about your symptoms so you can rule out any underlying causes.

1. Anemia

Anemia occurs when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells in your body. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to your body’s organs and tissues. When your gum tissue doesn’t get enough oxygen, it may turn pale.

Other symptoms of anemia include:

  • fatigue or weakness
  • pale or yellowish skin
  • headaches
  • cold hands or feet
  • breathing problems
  • dizziness or lightheadedness

Anemia is usually caused by not getting enough iron, folate, or vitamin b-12. Other causes include excessive bleeding, liver and spleen disorders, hypothyroidism, and genetic disorders. Depending on the underlying cause, treatment may involve dietary supplements, blood transfusions, or medication.

2. Leukoplakia

Leukoplakia refers to white patches around the inside of your mouth, including your gums. The spots can’t be scrubbed off, and doctors aren’t sure about its exact cause. You might also find them mixed with red patches. Tobacco is a strong risk factor.

While leukoplakia is usually harmless, it can be cancerous, especially when it has both red and white spots. Cancer in the bottom of your mouth also tends to show up close to leukoplakia. Make sure to tell your doctor about any unusual spots or colors in your mouth.

3. Vitamin K deficiency

Vitamin K helps your blood clot, and babies without enough of it in their system can bleed uncontrollably. This produces symptoms similar to those of anemia, including pale gums. Other symptoms of not having enough vitamin K include:

  • bruising
  • pale skin
  • irritability
  • vomiting
  • dark stools
  • seizures

This condition is easily treated with injection of vitamin K, which is usually given just after birth.

4. Menopause

Hormone fluctuations during menopause can also influence the color of the gums. Some women develop menopausal gingivostomatitis, an infection in the mouth and gums. Menopausal gingivostomatitis can make gums look either paler or darker than usual and cause bleeding.

Taking estrogen supplements usually resolves menopausal gingivostomatis.

Tips for oral health

Not taking care you your teeth and gums is linked to several serious health issues, including heart problems and birth complications. Keep your mouth and the rest of your body healthy by following these tips:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • See your dentist on a regular basis — at least every six months.
  • Avoid smoking or chewing tobacco.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Change your toothbrush every three to four months.
  • Avoid injuries to the face and jaw.
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks.
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