In order to understand gum bleaching, it’s important to first understand ethnic pigmentation and the different causes of dark gums. Ethnic pigmentation, also known as melanin pigmentation, occurs when melanocytes (the cells that produce pigment) develop in high quantities in certain areas of your body due to genetics and ancestry. Some of these places include our hair, eyes, and skin, especially along the sides of our faces, lips, and nostrils.
What Are Melanocytes?
Melanocytes are cells that produce pigment, or color. They are found throughout your body but are most commonly found near the surface of your skin. The type of melanin produced by these cells determines what your skin color will be. The melanocytes can be destroyed by exposure to UV radiation from the sun or other sources. This is how dentists would try to remove gum pigmentation in the past — the keyword there being tried.
There are three types of pigment-producing cells (melanocytes, hemoglobin, and amyloid) that can create different colors. Melanocytes produce melanin which is what gives skin its color. Amyloid produces lipofuscin which gives skin a yellowish hue. Hemoglobin gives blood its red hue. When it comes to gum bleaching, dentists have found more success removing amyloid pigments than they have with melanin or hematin pigments. When anesthetic agents are used during the procedure, patients will experience some bleeding. The bleeding usually subsides after five days post-procedure.
Taking Away Melanin:
Oral melanin is also found on the gingiva which means, if a dentist tries to remove gum pigmentation with a laser, they will also be burning away melanin from your gums. In addition, this can cause permanent damage to your gum tissue, jawbone, and surrounding teeth. Melanocytes are also concentrated along tooth surfaces which means that there’s a chance for the laser to burn away other tissue as well. It’s not uncommon for people who have undergone this procedure to experience dry mouth because of decreased saliva production which may eventually lead to dental problems such as cavities or tooth loss. Laser therapy has been deemed ineffective by most dentists so try not to be discouraged if you notice that no matter what you do, your teeth are still discolored.
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Does It Work?
Luckily, there are now natural treatments for ethnic pigmentation that do not come with painful side effects. Home remedies like lemon juice or tea tree oil can work wonders on dark spots. There are also many skin care products that include exfoliating ingredients, but make sure you do your research before using them! You don’t want to just buy something from the store without understanding what is in it.
Burning of gum tissue – The laser dentists use can cause irreversible gum tissue burning, which can lead to chronic pain. Loss of taste buds – The laser dentists use can also cause significant loss of taste buds, which results in a condition called hypogeusia. Hypogeusia is a condition where you have a decreased ability to taste food and beverages. Increased risk for oral cancer – There are two types of melanin (Keratinocyte-derived, Epithelium-derived) in the body that produce pigment — melanocytes and keratinocytes.
· Maintain good oral hygiene. Oral bacteria can cause gum inflammation, which can lead to pigmentation. Daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing will help reduce plaque buildup and subsequent gum inflammation.
· Use an antibacterial mouthwash. It’s important for preventing tooth decay as well as reducing plaque growth on your teeth. You should use it twice a day after brushing, but not at night before you go to sleep, or else it’ll dry out your mouth too much.
· Clean your tongue daily with a tongue scraper or toothbrush with soft bristles so that the bacteria that causes bad breath won’t stick onto your tongue when you’re sleeping at night, causing gum tissue discoloration all day long.