What Can Cause Black Or Discolored Gums?

So many people are focused on achieving a white, healthy smile that they fail to notice gum problems until they are too obvious to miss. You may have noticed recently that your gums are not the vibrant pink they used to be and have become black, brown or gray in some areas. Although this problem can be a symptom of obscure, serious diseases, it is more likely to be the result of one of these easily treatable conditions. 

Natural Pigmentation

Just like people come in a wide variety of skin tones and appearances, not all gums look alike. Gums often contain melanin, the same pigments that dictate skin color, which conflicts with their standard pink hue. For darker-skinned individuals, this can lead to brown gums that are perfectly natural and healthy. If you notice your gums darkening over time, check with your dentist to confirm that it is simply your body's normal pigmentation. 


On top of all of its other health risks, smoking is also a leading contributor to gum disease. Smoking suppresses your body's blood vessels, making it harder for them to bring adequate oxygen and nutrients to your gums. This causes the gums to become unhealthy and break down, developing dark splotches that can eventually become infected. Quitting smoking can be the most important step you take to return your gums to normal and lead a long, active life. 

Black Gum Disease

If the black patches on your gums are accompanied by a foul odor and pain, you may be suffering from black gum disease. This condition, also known as necrotizing ulcerative periodontitis, can appear and spread rapidly. Black gum disease is typically associated with immune system disorders and indicates a serious problem that needs to be treated as quickly as possible. 

Poor Dental Hygiene 

During World War I, many soldiers suffered from "trench mouth," a severe kind of gingivitis that resulted from their inability to maintain proper dental hygiene. Trench mouth is easily recognized by the grey film that often develops over the gums, along with ulcers and swollen, bleeding gums. Antibiotics and better cleanliness can be all it takes to reverse this problem. 

Amalgam Tattoos

Amalgam is an alloy of mercury and other metals that dentists use for fillings and various dental procedures. Sometimes, however, this amalgam is injected into the tissues of your gums during routine dental work, leading to a small, dark stain. This might sound alarming, but these amalgam tattoos are completely harmless, and the process of removing them is often more trouble than its worth. If you are concerned about discoloration in your gums, don't hesitate to schedule an appointment with your dentist for an expert's opinion today.