Dark gums are one of those universal problems that despite being common, few people ever discuss. For those who are affected by dark gums, though, it can be a constant worry. In a culture where smiling—and therefore teeth and gums—is so important, having discoloration in the gums area can make people self-conscious and seem shy and cheerless. While it is painless and doesn’t have any health implications, that doesn’t mean dark gums don’t impact people’s quality of life.

To help those who are struggling with this issue, here is some information I discovered on the site of Dr. Gary Bram, a Bayside, NY dentist.

What are dark gums?

Dark gums refer to the pigment in the gums that impedes the pink color that most prefer. The pigment is often not a unified whole over all the gums but appears instead in large splotches. The color can be anything from brown to purple to red to black. The causes vary but come from an excess of melanin or carotene in the gum tissue. Some of this can come from genetics (it usually shows up in people with darker skin tones, but it can affect people of any race), but it can also come from certain lifestyle habits or events. These include smoking, poor oral hygiene, or contracting certain illnesses or regularly taking certain medications that create an imbalance in the gum tissue. Even specific dental procedures can lead to dark gums. This can happen when metal fillings corrode.

The good news is that dark gums are not painful and are not necessarily the sign of anything wrong with your teeth or gums, although certain types of dark coloration may be the sign of black gum disease, which comes from dead gum tissue. This must be treated immediately.

What can you do about it?

Treatments vary depending on the cause of your dark gums. If it is disease, the gums can be treated with antibiotics.

For those who simply have a darker coloration without cause from disease, the options are somewhat limited. Removing the dark layer of gum tissue on top is possible. This often leads to slightly less dark gum tissue growing back and replacing it.

The most effective treatment for dark gums, however, is the Erbium Laser, which can alter the level of melanin in the gum tissue and return it to a healthy pink color. The treatment is easy and can be performed by trained dentists. It is relatively painless and requires relatively little anesthesia. It only results in a certain amount of itchiness after the treatment, but even this disappears after a few days. And, best of all, it can be used on gums no matter how darkly colored.

While having dark gums is not necessarily something that requires medical assistance, it can be something that makes people feel self-conscious and uncomfortable with themselves. If that applies to you, then find a dentist able to perform the Erbium Laser treatment on you and see new confidence in your smile.