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A smile can make or break a person's entire look. We normally associate how pleasant or esthetic a smile is with the color, size and arrangement of the teeth. Without doubt, these are extremely important, however, they alone are not enough. The gums too play a vital but often overlooked role in the appearance of the smile.
The natural color of the gums is considered to be "coral pink", and that is what most people free from gum disease have. However, there are some who have gums that are darker than normal due to the abnormal deposition of melanin (the tanning pigment).
Why Are Some People's Gums Darker Than Others?
The cells that produce melanin are present in everybody’s gums, however due to reasons ranging from tobacco use, certain medications like anti-malarial medication and antidepressant drugs, hormonal disturbances, genetic conditions like Albright’s syndrome/Peutz-Jeghers syndrome or even without any cause at all, these cells can become overactive and produce more melanin than is considered normal.
It is important to remember here that dark gums do not indicate a medical problem as such. If the patient has no other systemic symptom other than dark gums then no medical treatment is required.
The issue that arises for the patient is esthetic in nature.
The options available to patients who would like to get their gums treated and made lighter are all surgical. There are a number of different techniques that are used, with each having some pros and cons, but the patient must have realistic expectations before choosing any of these procedures. None of them are permanent and it is almost certain that the color of the gums will return to the starting point over a variable length of time.
The procedure is absolutely safe and if done properly does not cause any harm to any of the surrounding structures. Thus, the patients do have the option of getting it done multiple times.
This is probably the most convenient and cost effective method for the patient although it requires the doctor to have a high level of skill. The idea is to use a sharp surgical blade to remove the thin top layer of the gingival.
This is the layer that has all the accumulated melanin pigment and so the top layer that reforms after healing is pink again. Unfortunately, the melanin-producing cells are found in the bottom layers of the gingival and cannot be altered by this method. This is why the gums return to their genetically and physiologically set color over a period of time.
There are several disadvantages of this method. The first is that there is a lot of bleeding involved. There is a risk of injury to the underlying bone if the incisions run deeper than intended. A small risk of leaving behind small islands of pigmented gingiva is always present.
The raw gingival at the end of the procedure requires the application of an uncomfortable periodontal pack for at least a week after surgery.