In some cases, changes in your mouth can be an early sign that something is going on elsewhere in your body. Take your gums, for instance. Healthy gums are firm and pink to brown in color depending on your ethnic background. If the color of your gums change or if you develop pale gums, it can be a sign that something's up.
Several conditions can affect the color of your gums. If you are concerned about the look of your gums, your dentist or doctor can help to diagnose the issue and work with you to improve your overall health. Here are a few possible causes of pale gums.
An article in Periodontology 2000 notes that people with anemia may have pale tissues in the mouth. When a person has anemia, their blood can't deliver an adequate amount of oxygen to the rest of their body, as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes. Often, people who have anemia don't have enough iron, which your body needs to make hemoglobin — the protein that gives blood its bright red color.
Several things can trigger anemia. Some people develop it after losing a lot of blood, explains the NIH. Others may develop anemia because their body destroys red blood cells at a higher rate or has trouble producing red blood cells.
Having pale gums isn't the only sign of anemia. Other symptoms include fatigue, unusual heartbeat, weakness and pale skin, according to the Mayo Clinic. Your doctor can run blood tests to look at your red blood cell count and hemoglobin levels before making a diagnosis. They may also perform a test that examines the shape and size of your red blood cells, as the Mayo Clinic points out.
Treatment options for anemia depend on the type. For instance, if you have anemia because your iron levels are low, your doctor might prescribe an iron supplement.
2. Kidney Disease
The kidneys have two jobs: They filter your blood, and they produce urine. When something's wrong with your kidneys, they can't filter waste well. As the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) notes, people with certain conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, have a higher risk of developing kidney disease.
As for its effect on gum color, a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry compared the gums of 30 patients with kidney disease to a control group of 30 people without kidney disease. No one in the control group had pale gums, while 42.2% of those who had kidney disease did.
Other symptoms to look for if you are concerned about kidney disease are swelling, changes in urination, itchy skin and weight loss, notes the NIDDK. If you have concerning symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor, especially if you have diabetes or high blood pressure.
According to the NIDDK, your doctor is likely to order a urine test and a blood test. The NIDDK also explains that treatment of kidney disease often involves taking medication to slow the progression of the disease, monitoring the condition of your kidneys and properly managing other conditions, such as diabetes.
In some cases, changes in your gum color can also be connected to menopause. The American Academy of Periodontology notes that menopausal gingivostomatitis affects a small percentage of women. One of the signs of menopausal gingivostomatitis is a change in gum color, such as the gums turning pale.
Weight gain, changes in your sleep, mood swings and hot flashes are among the other signs of menopause, according to the National Institute on Aging. Your doctor can provide support and advice to help you cope with body changes associated with menopause.
The appearance of your gums can be a key indicator that something may be going on in your body. If you're concerned about pale gums or other changes in your mouth, don't be shy about discussing your concerns with your dentist or doctor. They can help you figure out what's going on and recommend the proper treatment for your situation.