Why Are Your Gums White?
White gums are caused by a condition known as leukoplakia. Mayo Clinic defines leukoplakia as a condition where thick, white spots or patches form on the gums, inner cheeks, and bottom of the mouth. They can even form on the tongue. These white spots cannot be rubbed or scraped off.
The good news is that most cases of leukoplakia are benign. That said, on rare occasions, it can be an early indication of cancer. This pre-cancerous condition is known as dysplasia. According to the American Cancer Society, dysplasia is graded as mild, moderate, or severe. Determining what degree of dysplasia you have will guide your treatment because severe dysplasia is more likely to turn into cancer, while mild dysplasia might go away completely.
What Causes Leukoplakia?
While the medical world is not sure what exactly causes leukoplakia, tobacco use in any form and chronic alcohol abuse are suspected as possible reasons. Dentures that rub against your tongue or the inside of your cheeks are another possible culprit.
Are There Symptoms Other Than White Patches?
We now know that leukoplakia causes white patches on your gums that can’t be wiped away.
Some other things to look for are:
- Patches that are irregular or flat-textured
- Other parts of the mouth that appear thickened or hardened
- White patches appearing along with raised, red lesions (also known as speckled leukoplakia or erythroplakia), which are more likely to show pre-cancerous changes
Should You See Your Dentist?
Absolutely! If you see white patches formed on your gums, the first thing to do is schedule an appointment with your dentist. Since these patches can be pre-cancerous, early detection is key so they can be treated before they become more serious. Take note of when you first noticed the patches so you can convey this information to your dentist or oral surgeon.
It’s also a good idea to schedule regular check-ups with your dentist. During these check-ups, your dentist might notice things you have not, such as early signs of leukoplakia.
It’s natural to feel worried or overwhelmed if you see white spots on your gums, but noticing these spots is the first step to taking control of the problem. Next time you peer inside your mouth and see white gums, remember, your body is trying to give you some vital information that, in turn, you need to give to your dentist!