Home » Ethnic Pigmentation: The Dark Side Of Gum Bleaching

Ethnic Pigmentation: The Dark Side Of Gum Bleaching

by Uneeb Khan
Ethnic Pigmentation

Since the early 2000s, there has been a disturbing trend in cosmetic dentistry, particularly among teenagers and young adults: gum bleaching. Unfortunately, unlike whiter teeth (which were what many patients were hoping to achieve), gum bleaching often resulted in even darker gums than the patient had before the procedure. So why does this happen? The short answer is that it’s not possible to erase pigmentation from the mouth using lasers or any other dental technique.

What Can Cause Dark Spots On My Gums?

For some people, pigmented gums are an asset. For others, they’re a huge problem. Ethnic pigmentation is a condition that causes dark spots to form on top of your gum tissue and can affect anyone of any ethnic background…What causes ethnic pigmentation? The cause is usually unknown. Some scientists believe it may be related to sun exposure and hormone changes; however, not all people who develop discoloration live in sunny areas or experience hormonal fluctuations. An easy way to determine if you have ethnic pigmentation is by feeling your gums — if there are small bumps anywhere on your gums that aren’t firmly attached, then it could be affected by ethnic pigmentation…Why does gum bleaching exist?

How does Gum Bleaching work?

Dentists say that for many people, gum bleaching doesn’t hurt. But we’re sure there are some folks out there who feel a sense of searing pain as their sensitive gums are scorched with heat from lasers and intense light sources. Dentists recommend taking pain relievers one to three hours before your appointment in order to take on more discomfort; be sure not to eat anything 15 minutes prior to your session as well. If you have tingling sensations, you can tell your dentist; it’s very possible that you’re having an allergic reaction and need something stronger than ibuprofen.

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Will It hurt?

There’s a good chance that your gum bleaching could hurt a lot, Dr. Herbst says. The side effects can include dizziness, headaches, burns, and dryness in the mouth. Those are what we call ‘adverse events,’ which means they could occur but don’t have to — there are other people who have no adverse events from it at all — so you really have no way of knowing in advance how your body will react to any treatment. Dr. Herbst adds that even patients who don’t experience adverse events like these still might not see results after treatment because pigmentation can come back on its own after a year or two (or more). Still curious about giving it a shot?

What’s the recovery time?

There are a few different things to keep in mind when thinking about how long it will take you to recover after bleaching your gums. First, your recovery time is going to depend on how much tissue your dentist has to remove. If they’re having to burn away two layers of tissue, expect two weeks or so before you can eat normal foods again — that’s assuming no damage was done to any nerves or blood vessels in the process. On average, though, most patients can return to their normal diet within a week and even return to a normal level of activity just three days later.

Is It Worth It?

Considering that many dentists don’t even perform gum bleaching anymore, it’s pretty obvious that a lot of people aren’t seeing results. One thing to note about bleaching is that it will only remove pigment in your teeth. If you still have issues with plaque build-up on your gums, you may be able to get away with not having your teeth professionally cleaned for a little longer — but if your gums start bleeding or become sore, then you should probably have them cleaned. But otherwise, as long as you keep up with flossing and brushing every day, gum bleaching isn’t necessary — yet. One day we might be able to use bleach in a different way than we currently do (more on that later), but until then…


If you’re looking for a cosmetic treatment to lighten your teeth, don’t opt for gum bleaching. It’s painful and damaging, which is why we recommend dental veneers or porcelain crowns (also known as dentures). Not only are they much safer options than bleaching, but they also look better in terms of natural aesthetics and can replace missing teeth altogether. For example, consider composite resin bonding or porcelain laminate veneer bridges if you want to achieve a brighter smile. If you have any questions about these treatments feel free to contact us at (555) 555-5555.

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