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Why are my gums turning white?

I think my gums are turning white. Why would they do this? Do I need a teeth cleaning?
There are several potential causes of white gums. One simple cause is the collection of food and other debris along the edge of the gums where they contact they teeth. If the white discoloration is limited to this part of the gums in your case, this may be what is going on, and the condition should respond to improved brushing, although you probably also would need to see your dentist for a formal teeth cleaning. If the white areas of the gums are not limited to the edges of the teeth but are rather flat areas that cover the roof of your mouth, cheeks, or other similar areas then there are at least two possibilities. The first is that you have thrush, which is a fungal infection of the mouth; in this condition, you can usually scrape of the white areas, although the tissue underneath may bleed. The second condition is leukoplakia, which is a precancerous condition that tends to occur mostly in those who use tobacco or alcohol; these spots cannot be scratched off. You should go see either your dentist or your primary care doctor; both of them will be able to diagnose what is going on and help you figure out what to do next.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under ZocDoc’s Terms of Service.
Who answers these questions?
Answers are written by doctors from top institutions:
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • Boston Children's Hospital
  • NYU Langone Medical Center
  • Brigham and Women's Hospital
  • Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • Mass General Hospital
  • Beth Israel Medical Center
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