5 Things You Need To Know About Gum Discoloration

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Healthy gum tissue is supposed to be uniformly pink, so it's normal to be concerned if your gums don't look like that. Some people have brown or black dots on their gums that look like freckles, while others have larger areas of discoloration. Here's what you need to know about gum discoloration.

What causes gum discoloration?

There are lots of things that can cause discoloration of your gums, but sometimes, they're freckles, just like the kind you get on your skin. Freckles are deposits of excess melanin, the pigment that gives your skin, hair, and gums their color. This isn't dangerous, but not everyone likes the appearance of freckles on their gum line, especially if the freckles are highly visible. 

Other factors like smoking and some medications can cause marks that look like freckles to develop on your gums. The silver in your fillings can even stain the surrounding gum tissue, causing a freckle-like mark. These markings aren't true freckles in that they aren't caused by excess melanin, but they look very similar to the untrained eye. You'll need to see your dentist to figure out exactly what caused the marks on your gums.

Do lots of people have discolored gums?

Many people have discolored gums. There haven't been any studies done to find out the exact prevalence of these markings, but dentists consider them to be very common. These markings may also be under reported since not everyone who has freckles on their gums is bothered by them. 

Can discolored gums be treated?

There are many different ways that your dentist can get rid of the discoloration. The discolored area can be surgically removed, either with a scalpel or with a laser. Your dentist can also perform cryosurgery; this means that your freckle will be frozen off. If there wasn't much tissue removed, your gums will regrow, and the new tissue that forms won't be discolored. 

If a larger area of tissue was removed, your dentist may need to perform a gum graft to replace the missing tissue. Pink gum tissue will be removed from the back of your mouth where it isn't visible and sewn onto the area where your freckle used to be. This restores the appearance of your gums, and no one will ever know that you used to have an unsightly freckle there. 

Is the treatment permanent?

After your treatment, it's possible that the discoloration will return, either in the same spot or in a different spot. Just like you can develop new freckles on your skin throughout your life, you can develop new freckles on your gums. Recurrence of the freckles doesn't mean that your treatment has failed. If you develop new freckles, see your dentist for follow-up treatments.

Can gum discoloration be a sign of more serious problems?

Even if you're not bothered by the appearance of your gums, you should still ask your dentist to take a look at them. Dark spots on the gums can be harmless freckles, but they can sometimes be a sign of oral cancers like squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma. Your dentist may want to biopsy the spots just to make sure that they're not cancerous.

These cancers are very rare, so it's more likely that the spots on your gums are just freckles, but you need to see your dentist to know for sure. 

Discolored gums are a common problem, but that doesn't mean that you have to learn to live with them. If you have freckles or other dark spots on your gums, make an appointment with your dentist right away to make sure they're not anything serious and to get more information.