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Why are my gums black?

Sep 25, 2023Oral health

Why are my gums black?

It is often overlooked, yet the gums play an essential role in our oral health. Our teeth and jawbones rely on these delicate pink connective tissues to remain connected and function properly; however, many individuals are unaware of their importance.

Gums are typically pink in color; however, dark brown or black discolorations may appear occasionally. Several factors may cause gums to become darkened, though most of these causes are not serious and do not require medical treatment.

It is important to be aware that black spots on the gums may be a sign of a more serious underlying issue. If you notice any black patches, or if they change color, shape, or size, please consult your dentist as soon as possible.

The following information may be beneficial when determining if immediate treatment is necessary, or if waiting until your next dental appointment is an option.


Causes of Dark or Black Gums

Inadequate oral hygiene is frequently the primary factor associated with the accumulation of tartar. Poor brushing and flossing may cause tartar to darken and accumulate in areas below the gum line. Moreover, there are numerous other elements that may accelerate the formation of tartar and contribute to its discoloration; these factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Diets high in starch and sugar
  • Consuming beverages that may cause stainings, such as coffee and wine
  • Trauma or damage to the gums and tooth enamel can have a detrimental effect on one’s oral health.

Tartar buildup beneath the gum line, known as sub gingival tartar, can cause discoloration of the gums as blood vessels contained within the gums absorb blood pigments and proteins that mix with the tartar over time. This causes the gums around the teeth to become discolored in an unsightly black hue.


What else causes black gums?

One’s overall health, medications, and personal choices may cause changes in the color of gum tissue, with black gums being one such example. Further causes of this condition include:

1. Melanin

The body naturally produces melanin, a pigment responsible for determining the color of a person’s skin, hair, and eyes. Generally speaking, higher levels of melanin result in darker hair, skin, and eye coloration.

Gums of dark brown or black color may be caused by an increased presence of melanin in the body. If the individual’s gums have been this way since birth, there is no need to worry.

If the color of the gums changes over a brief period of time, or if dark patches appear, this could potentially be an indication of an underlying medical issue and may not be caused by melanin.

2. Smoking

Smoking can lead to discolored gums, known as smoker’s melanosis.

Specialized cells in the body known as melanocytes are responsible for producing the pigment melanin. Nicotine present in tobacco can stimulate melanocytes to produce an increased amount of melanin.

The gums may present a change in color, ranging from brown to black. This alteration may be localized to certain patches or spread throughout the entire oral cavity, as well as the interior of the cheeks and lower lip.

Studies have indicated that quitting smoking may be associated with a reduction in gum discoloration. This implies that pigmentation of the gums from smoking may be reversible.

3. Addison’s disease

Addison’s disease is characterized by insufficient production of hormones from the adrenal glands. This disorder impairs the normal functioning of the adrenal glands, which are responsible for producing a variety of hormones.

Common early symptoms of the condition may include:

As Addison’s disease progresses, a person may experience darkening of their gums and lips, a condition referred to medically as hyperpigmentation.

Addison’s disease can have an effect on not only the lips and gums, but also result in darker patches of skin in certain areas of the body. The most regularly seen locations for these dark patches include the knees, knuckles, palms, and any areas surrounding scars.

In most cases, Addison’s disease is caused by an issue with the immune system which triggers it to attack and cause damage to the adrenal glands.

Untreated Addison’s disease may lead to dangerous consequences, such as an adrenal crisis caused by lowered hormone levels.

Symptoms of an adrenal crisis may include extreme dehydration, rapid shallow breathing, sleepiness, and pale, clammy skin. An adrenal crisis is an urgent medical issue that requires immediate attention.

4. Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis

Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, commonly referred to as trench mouth, is a gum infection characterized by fever, painful gums, and bad-smelling breath. In some cases, the accumulation of dead tissue can result in the gums appearing black or grey in color.

Trench mouth is an oral bacterial infection caused by rapid bacteria growth in the mouth, typically a result of gingivitis. Contributing factors to this buildup of bacteria include poor dental hygiene habits, high-stress levels, inadequate sleep, and an unhealthy diet.

Early symptoms of trench mouth include bleeding gums, foul breath, an abundance of saliva in the mouth, and feeling unwell. Additionally, ulcerations may form on the gum line near the teeth.

A dental professional can effectively treat this condition with cleaning and potentially an antibiotic prescription.

Maintaining oral hygiene through proper rinsing of the mouth with medicated mouthwash and diligently cleaning teeth and gums can help prevent recurrent infections.


Treatment Options for Black Gums

A dentist’s examination may be necessary to determine the best course of action for individuals seeking cosmetic improvements for black gums. Numerous treatment options are available and your dentist can provide personalized recommendations based on your specific case.

One of the surgical options available to patients for the removal of darkened gum tissue with the use of a scalpel. Initial results of this procedure often appear promising, however, reoccurring pigmentation can occur due to the migration of melanin-producing cells into the treated area.

Cryosurgery, a method of freezing the affected gum tissue, has been found to have a low rate of recurrence, according to a study published in the International Journal of Health Sciences. This treatment option should be considered.

A free gingival grafting procedure may be utilized in order to conceal the underlying dark gum tissue. This treatment involves harvesting unpigmented tissue from the roof of the mouth and applying it to the gums, as opposed to eliminating it entirely.

Gums may vary in color from person to person, with black gums being a common natural variation. Nonetheless, if you are concerned about the color of your gums, it is recommended that you consult your dentist.

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