gum discoloration

What Causes Gum Discoloration?

Healthy gums are typically pink, but they can also be various shades of brown or black. Gum color varies from person to person, so as long as you take note of your own natural color, you’ll be able to quickly spot any unusual discoloration. Gum discoloration may not always be a symptom of something serious, but it’s a good idea to speak with your dentist at Lifetime Family Dental if you notice changes in your teeth or gums.

Why Are My Gums Black?

If you were born with naturally dark or black gums, it just means your body produces a lot of melanin. Your skin, hair, and eye color all come from melanin, and being born with more melanin in your body than other people is perfectly normal. However, if your gums begin turning darker over time, it could be from certain habits or medical conditions. 

What Causes Gum Discoloration?


The nicotine in tobacco can trigger melanosis, which causes your body to start producing more melanin than usual. Smoking tobacco can cause your gums and other areas inside your mouth to turn brown or black. While smoker’s melanosis itself does not put your health at risk, smoking tobacco can lead to gum disease, tooth loss, and a variety of other serious health problems


Just like other sensitive parts of your body, injuries can easily bruise your gums. Injuring your face, eating something sharp, and roughly brushing or flossing your teeth are common ways to bruise your gums. Babies may also develop bruises on their gums while teething, either from the teeth growing in or from chewing on hard objects. 

Bruises on gums may appear purple, dark red, dark brown, or black, and should heal over time. If you notice a bruise on your gums that doesn’t go away after two weeks, contact your doctor or dentist right away. 

Amalgam Tattoo

Amalgam is a mix of metals dentists sometimes use to make fillings and crowns for your teeth. If you have metal amalgam fillings or crowns, some particles from them may dislodge and appear under the skin of your gums as a black, gray, or blue stain or “tattoo.” Amalgam tattoos do not require treatment, but they are not removable either. You can prevent this type of gum discoloration by getting composite resin fillings and porcelain crowns


Some acne medications and others that treat certain types of infections can cause gum discoloration. If your gums change color while taking these kinds of medications, speak with your doctor to see if you can change your prescription.

Medical Conditions

Several different medical conditions can discolor your gums as well:

  • Acute necrotizing periodontal disease may result in dead tissue along your gums that appears black. 
  • Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis is a severe gum infection that can cause your gums to turn black or gray due to a dark film that builds up on your gums.
  • Thrush is a fungal infection that can make your gums appear white.
  • Leukoplakia is a precancerous condition that can also turn your gums white. 

Treatment for Gum Discoloration

You should always discuss changes in your oral health with your dentist. Keep in mind that maintaining good oral hygiene, avoiding tobacco products, and scheduling regular teeth cleanings will keep your oral health in excellent condition and can prevent many causes of gum discoloration. 

If you notice any changes in the color of your gums, contact Lifetime Family Dental. We’ll examine your gums and discuss any treatment options that may be necessary. Call us at 480-558-4331 today to schedule an appointment.

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (11/23/2021). Photo by Stefan Stefancik from Pexels