What Causes Gums To Change Color And How To Whiten Them

how to whiten gums home remedies

Caucasians naturally have coral pink gums that are firm to the touch in health. Some ethnic groups have more melanin which can cause the gums to appear darker.  Just like the skin gets darker when exposed to the sun, our gums can also change colour too – this is harmless.

However, the gums indicate our oral health so any color changes such as darkening or blackening could be a cause for concern

This post aims to explain the reasons why gums may change color and how they can be whitened naturally. 

Why Have My Gums Changed Color

Gums can change colour for a variety of reasons such as 

  • Nicotine & Smoking
  • Gum disease
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis
  • Amalgam tattoos – if this is the cause there is no treatment. It appears near fillings and is caused by particles of the metals used to make fillings and crowns getting trapped under the gum. No treatment is needed. 
  • Medication – If Minocycline used to treat acne and infections such as chlamydia has discolored your gums the best remedy is to speak to your doctor and ask for medication to be swapped to an alternative.

Best Home Remedies To Whiten Your Gums at Home

The best home remedies to whiten your gums depend on the cause. We look at each cause in turn and indicate the most effective home treatment. 

Home Remedies to Whiten Gums Discolored by Smoking 

If you smoke nicotine or tobacco it can cause your gums to become dark brown or black. Smoking causes specialized cells called melanocytes in the body to produce more melanin leading to the changes seen in the gums as well as the cheeks and lips. 

The most effective home treatment to whiten the gums of smokers is to stop smoking. Research has shown that there is a link between cessation and reduced discolouration. 

Smokers are also at greater risk of gum disease (discussed below).

Home Remedies for Color Changes Caused by Plaque Bacteria

Poor oral hygiene along with risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, stress, frequent consumption of sugary drinks and snacks as well as a diet that lacks nutrient-rich foods can all contribute to the development of gum disease and in some cases an aggressive form called Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis. 

Gum disease and Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis are triggered by plaque bacteria that are allowed to build up along the gumline from failure to properly clean the teeth twice a day.  The gums become red or deep purple as the gums get irritated by the plaque bacteria. In the case of Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis, the gums can sometimes become black or even white. 

The most effective home remedy for the gums changing color in these cases is to develop and maintain oral hygiene that’s first class. This involves brushing the teeth twice daily and cleaning the interdental spaces to disrupt the bacteria, remove the irritation and allow the gums to heal. The gums will become whitened naturally. 

Professional gum health treatments or antibiotic prescription may also be required in addition to self-care treatments at home especially if you have advanced gum disease or acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis. 

#1 Brush the Teeth Twice a Day

Cleaning the teeth for 2 minutes twice a day is the most effective way to disrupt bacterial growth. Dental experts around the world recommend that you use a soft toothbrush that has a small head. 

An electric toothbrush when used correctly can be more effective than a manual brush especially if you have limited mobility in your hands. 

If you struggle to access the teeth at the back of the mouth use a children’s toothbrush or a single tufted toothbrush. 

Fluoride toothpaste is recommended but isn’t essential for disrupting the plaque but may help prevent plaque from adhering to the gums and remineralise the teeth. If you do use fluoride toothpaste, try to avoid rinsing with water or mouthwash afterwards. 

Whilst a toothbrush is great at cleaning most surfaces of the teeth it can’t reach between the teeth. There are several ways to remove the sticky plaque from these hard-to-reach areas.  

You can use one or a combination of the following tools to clean between the teeth:

  • Interdental brushes
  • Floss
  • Water flosser

#2 Clean the Gum Pockets

A regular toothbrush has a head too large to clean into the periodontal pocket, the space between the gum and tooth where bacteria collects.

This space harbours harmful bacteria which causes inflammation of the gum, recession and ultimately can lead to teeth loss.

A specially designed GDG Pocket Brush can be used to clean the areas a regular toothbrush can’t reach.

Beat Gum Disease Now

#3 Smoking Cessation

Stopping smoking can be one of the best things you can do for your oral and general health. It will help your gums to recover and help whiten them. 

#4 Control Sugar Levels

If you have diabetes, maintaining your blood sugar levels will help your gums recover from gum disease and become whiter.  

#5 Reduce Frequency of Sugar Intake

Bacteria thrive on sugar, reducing the number of times throughout the day that you consume sugary drinks and snacks will remove the bacteria’s food source. This will help reduce the  accumulation of plaque and therefore gum irritation. Helping your gums recover and whiten. 

#5 Sip Water

Water helps to wash the plaque bacteria away and dilute enzymes, toxins and acids that the bacteria produce. Helping your gums recover and become whiter. 

#6 Eat healthily

As well as removing sugar from your diet, it’s essential to eat a diet full that is nutrient-rich with vitamin C, B12 and calcium. Getting enough vitamin D from the sun or supplements can also help maintain healthy gums. Healthy gums are naturally whiter. 

#7 Natural Home Remedies – Use with Caution

Whilst some sources on the web suggest using natural remedies such as clove, sesame, tea tree or olive oil to whiten the teeth there is no scientific evidence to say that these treatments work. 

If the underlying cause is plaque bacteria the only way to effectively disrupt it is manually by brushing the teeth and cleaning the interdental spaces. If you do decide to use these natural therapies they should only be used in combination with those home remedies indicated above. 

#8 Cosmetic Periodontal Procedures To Whiten Gums – Approach with Caution

Some dental practices offer a service to whiten gums removing extra pigmentation and dark spots from the gums.

These procedures are not appropriate if you have gum disease. 


Gums can become darker for several reasons including sun exposure, smoking and plaque bacteria.

If plaque bacteria has caused your gums to become red, purple and in some cases black the most effective home remedy to whiten your gums is self-care treatments that include brushing the teeth twice a day using the correct technique. Find out more about curing gum disease at home.

Beat Gum Disease Now
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Written by Gareth Edwards

Co-Founder & GDG Dentist

Dr. Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons) MFDS (RCPS Glasgow) is GDG Co-Founder and Gum Disease Expert.

He is a practicing dentist based in Bournemouth, UK and has treated thousands of patients with gum-related diseases.

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