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Why Are My Gums Purple?

why are my gums purple

Healthy gums should normally appear firm and pink. So if your gums have changed color and are beginning to look a purple color, you might be a bit concerned. 

Whilst gums becoming a little bit darker can be a result of pigmentation or aging, gums that turn purple, dark brown, or develop black spots could be the result of a more serious medical condition.  

If you’ve noticed your gums have changed color you might be wondering, why are my gums purple?

In this post, we’re going to take a look at what causes gums to turn purple.

What Causes Purple Gums

Gums can change color in response to your dental and overall health. Here are some of the reasons why they might start to look purple. 


melanin purple gums

Melanin is a natural skin pigment (1). Special skin cells called melanocytes produce melanin. In some people, the melanocytes naturally produce more melanin. 

Naturally higher levels of melanin result in naturally darker skin, hair, eyes, and gums.  Those whose cells produce less melanin are more likely to have pale pink gums.

When we’ve been in the sun for a period of time the ultraviolet light causes the melanocytes to produce more melanin. We can get tanned skin and in some people, the gums can get darker as well.


As we get older, a lot of things begin to change including the color of gum tissue. As long this change isn’t accompanied by other symptoms such as bleeding or pain it’s probably completely nothing to worry about. You might not like the new gum color, but it’s unlikely to be a symptom of poor health. 


Tobacco can irritate the gums, palate, and the inside of the cheeks causing them to turn a purple or brown color.  This is called smoker’s melanosis.

The color change is driven by nicotine – it causes melanocytes, the cells that make melanin, to make more than normal. The amount of pigmentation increases with greater tobacco use and it’s more common in females.

Whilst there is no treatment, the color change is known to reverse 6 to 36 months after you cease smoking (2).

Also, evidence is overwhelming that smoking contributes to periodontal disease which can cause the gums to turn purple, which we discuss below.


Some medicines can also have an effect on the gums. For example, the antibiotic, minocycline that’s used to treat acne is known to cause changes in the color of your skin, nails, teeth, or gums.

Antimalarial agents, tricyclic antidepressants, and metal-based fillings or crowns are also known to cause a color change.

Gum Disease

If you have purple or brown gums that are sore, swollen, and bleeding there’s a chance that you have gum disease (also called periodontal disease).

The disease, which is driven by inflammation, is caused by bacteria that grow on your teeth and along your gums at the gum line.

Even within 30 minutes of perfect brushing (which is practically impossible!), the invisible sticky foundation of plaque is starting to build again. Within 4-12 hours of brushing, plaque (the sticky, colorless bacteria layer) begins to form.

Plaque can irritate the gums, and they become swollen, and red and they might bleed. At this stage, gum disease is called gingivitis. 

When gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis.

When plaque isn’t removed, it calcifies and becomes a hardened deposit on the teeth. This hardened deposit is called tartar (or calculus). It appears as yellow to dark brown spots along the gum line. This calculus prevents the gums from adhering to the teeth and plaque can get below the gum line, the toxins and acid produced by bacteria can cause bone to shrink away. 

Furthermore, swollen gums begin to peel away from the teeth, allowing the bacteria to get under the gum line. 

The body attempts to remove the infection and initiates a destructive inflammatory response where the bone and periodontal ligaments are destroyed.

The longer periodontitis is left without treatment, the worse the disease, bone, and soft tissue damage gets. Any damage caused is irreversible but it can be stopped from getting worse with effective treatment.

To prevent gum disease it’s important to practice proper oral hygiene using the right brushing aids. The Gum Pocket Brush is one of the simplest and inexpensive ways to halt periodontitis in its path.


Oral Cancer

If you’ve developed a dark spot which may be brown, blue-black mixed with red, purple, or gray it may be a sign of oral malignant melanoma, a dangerous type of cancer (3).  The spot can be found anywhere in your mouth. It may change size and shape as it grows.

It is very rare but can be fatal so you should seek medical attention ASAP.

Are Purple Gums Reversible?

If the change in color is due to smoking or gum disease, the purple color can be reversed by stopping smoking and getting treatment for the gum disease.

How To Avoid Gum Discoloration

Whilst purple discolored gums can be just a sign that you’re aging or a side effect of medication, it’s possible it could be a sign that there is something wrong in your mouth. Gum disease or smoking may be the cause.

The best way to avoid gum disease and purple gums are to stop smoking, avoid sugary and acidic food and ensure you have excellent oral hygiene.

The best way to keep your teeth clean is by brushing your teeth twice a day – brush your teeth for 2 minutes with fluoride toothpaste. Use floss, interdental brushes, or a water flosser every day to remove dental plaque and food debris from between the teeth and use the Gum Pocket Brush. Mouthwashes are not recommended for plaque removal.

What to Do If My Gums Turn Purple

When pink gums suddenly start to turn purple it can be a cause for concern. If you have some swelling or other symptoms such as sore, bleeding gums that may be causing you some discomfort it’s likely that you have some degree of gum disease and you should seek a definitive diagnosis from a dental professional.

If your gums are purple and sore, we can help you to restore your gum health. 


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