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What causes pale gums?

  • admin_hidser
  • 1st Jul 2018
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Pale gums may indicate that a person has anemia, which is often the result of an iron deficiency. However, if the gums are white or painful, the cause may be more serious.

Healthy gums should be a relatively consistent shade of pink. They may appear slightly lighter around the teeth and darker around the sides of the mouth. One person’s gums may be naturally a little paler or darker than another’s.

When an individual notices that the color of their gums is changing, they should speak with a doctor, especially if additional symptoms are causing concern.

Read on to learn more about the causes of pale gums. We also describe accompanying symptoms, treatments, and when to see a doctor.

Causes and symptoms

Treatment and the number of symptoms will vary, depending on the cause of pale gums.

Below is a list of underlying conditions, their other symptoms, and their treatments:


Anemia occurs when the body is not getting enough oxygen-rich blood. A lack of blood can cause some tissues to grow pale.

In addition to pale gums, a person with anemia may notice the following symptoms:

  • inexplicable exhaustion or weakness
  • shortness of breath
  • pale or yellowish skin and eyes
  • headaches
  • heart palpitations

Anemia often results from a lack of iron, folate, or vitamin B-12.

Otherwise, a person may have too few blood cells or not enough hemoglobin. In people with sickle cell anemia, the blood cells are abnormally shaped.

Medical conditions can also lead to anemia or increase a person’s risk. Some involve blood loss. They include:

  • very heavy menstruation
  • pregnancy
  • liver, spleen, or kidney conditions
  • hypothyroidism
  • bleeding in the stomach or intestines, which may result from gastrointestinal ulcers, cancers, abnormal growths, colitis, or swelling of the large intestine

Certain medications, particularly those for chemotherapy, can increase a person’s risk of developing anemia. Others develop the condition after taking too many nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which leads to internal bleeding.

Treatment may be as simple as taking prescribed iron pills for at least 6 months. These pills are best taken with food and citrus juices, especially orange juice. It can also help to eat foods rich in iron, such as dark leafy greens and fortified cereals and bread.

When very heavy periods are responsible for anemia, a person may benefit from hormone medications that lighten menstruation.

Certain foods can interfere with the body’s absorption of iron. A person with anemia may wish to avoid:

  • coffee and tea
  • alcohol
  • whole grain products
  • dairy products


Oral leukoplakia can cause uniform, thin, white patches to develop on the gums. These alternate with, or are bordered by, regular gum or mucous tissues.

The white patches may have raised, white nodules or be speckled with red.

Leukoplakia patches can develop anywhere in the mouth and cannot be rubbed or scrubbed off.

The cause of this condition is unclear, but it seems to occur more often in people who smoke, consume a lot of alcohol, or have poor oral hygiene.

In many cases, leukoplakia patches are harmless. However, they can transform and become cancerous.

Anyone who notices these patches should speak with a doctor or dentist. Depending on the patches’ size and location, as well as individual risk factors such as smoking, a doctor may choose to monitor leukoplakia patches or surgically remove them.

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