Healthy gum tissue isn't always pink. Just like skin color, gum color varies between different people. A study published by the Future Dental Journal explains that healthy gums range from light to dark brown or even black. Dark patches on gums may also be the result of a variety of factors like medication side effects or tobacco use. Black gums aren't necessarily a sign of an oral health issue, but seek your dentist if you're interested in cosmetic treatments for very dark gums.
Natural Variations in Gum Color
Melanin, the dark pigment that gives skin its color, is also present in gum tissue. This pigment naturally darkens the gums. The Future Dental Journal reports that melanin pigmentation is common among people of African, Asian and Mediterranean ancestry. The variation in color can be on one side or both sides of the mouth, and it can be uniform or in patches. Melanin pigmentation of the gums is normal, and no treatment is required.
Causes of Black Gums
Dark gums can also be associated with some endocrine diseases. The National Organization for Rare Disorders reports that people with Addison's disease may develop dark patches on their mucous membranes, including the gum tissue.
Some medications can affect the color of the gums. The Future Dental Journal notes that many medications can have this side effect, including some antimalarials, antipsychotics, cancer therapy drugs and antibiotics. If you notice darker gums after starting a new medication, talk to your doctor.
Smoking can cause many side effects inside the mouth, including dark gums. The nicotine in tobacco activates the melanin-producing cells, leading to darker gums, explains the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Quitting smoking may help reduce this dark pigmentation.
Sometimes, black gums can be a sign of something more serious. A black spot on the gums could be a type of oral cancer known as malignant melanoma. If you notice this type of lesion, see your dentist. The Oral Cancer Foundation explains that oral malignant melanomas are diagnosed with a tissue biopsy.
Treatment Options for Black Gums
Black gums don't always require treatment, but for people who are interested in cosmetic solutions, many options are available. After examining your gums, your dentist can recommend an appropriate treatment for your situation.
Removing the darkened gum tissue with a scalpel is one of the surgical options available to patients. The initial results for this procedure tend to be good, but they don't always last. That's because melanin-producing cells can sometimes migrate into the treated area, causing more pigmentation.
Cryosurgery, which involves freezing the affected gum tissue, is another treatment option. A study published in the International Journal of Health Sciences reports that the rate of recurrence after cryosurgery is low.
Free gingival grafting may also be used. This treatment involves harvesting unpigmented tissue from the roof of the mouth and applying it to the gums. This conceals the dark gum tissue instead of eliminating it.
Gums come in many different shades. Black gums are often simply a natural variation and not a medical concern. If you're concerned about the color of your gums, talk to your dentist.