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What Causes White Spots on Gums?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are a number of potential explanations for white spots on gums, and usually, evaluation by an oral health professional is needed to determine if spots are a cause for concern. Causes can range from oral cancers to allergic reactions. If a dentist believes that white spots on gums are potentially malignant, a biopsy may be recommended to learn more about them. Patients should advised that a biopsy request doesn't necessarily mean the spots are dangerous, it's merely a precautionary step to rule out malignant causes.

Often, white spots on gums take the form of leukoplakia, the development of white patches on the mucus membranes. This is often linked with tobacco use. It can also be a sign of infection with Candida yeast, an allergic reaction, or a reaction to bleaching chemicals used to whiten the teeth. A dentist can evaluate the spots to determine likely causes. Medications can be used to treat yeast infections, and if the cause appears to be allergies, adjusting the diet, changing oral health products, or stopping a tooth whitening program may resolve the white spots.

Salivary gland inflammation can sometimes cause white spots on gums. The gums may also appear reddish and inflamed. Another cause is the development of bony growths in the jaw. The gums are not actually white, but they appear to be because of the protrusion of bone. Fordyce granules, small whitish spots known to appear on mucus membranes in some people, can also be an issue.

White spots on gums may be a cyst, a small pocket filled with fluid, and sometimes they are canker sores. In both cases, eating soft, mild food for a few days to give the mouth a chance to heal should resolve the problem. If the spots are tender and sore or appear to grow over time, a dentist can be consulted to get more information about treatment options. Topical medications can often reduce pain and swelling while the issue resolves.

Patients who notice white spots on gums accompanied with extreme tenderness, bleeding, or puffiness may want to consult a dentist. Health care professionals prefer to look at benign conditions and inform their patients that no treatment is needed, as opposed to seeing advanced malignancies after the treatment options have narrowed considerably. Tissue changes in the mouth can be a sign of precancerous or cancerous lesions, and catching them early will allow patients to receive rapid and appropriate treatment.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By AlanJ — On Apr 20, 2011

You should definitely go to your dentist if you have any concerns about your teeth or gums. Sore gums might mean you have some sort of gum infection, but it could be something much worse, like periodontitis.

By Catapult — On Apr 18, 2011

A lot of gum infections can be treated fairly easily if catch the early. I have been told by my dentist that if they're unchecked, though, they can be extremely painful and also lead to things like your teeth losing alignment.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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