Color changes in the mouth may be caused by
Bodywide (systemic) disease
Bodywide diseases that can cause color changes in the mouth include the following:
Anemia Overview of Anemia Anemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells is low. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, a protein that enables them to carry oxygen from the lungs and deliver it to all parts... read more (low blood count) may cause the lining of the mouth to be pale instead of the normal healthy reddish pink.
Measles Measles Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that causes various cold-like symptoms and a characteristic rash. Measles is caused by a virus. Symptoms include fever, runny nose, hacking cough... read more , a viral disease, can cause spots to form inside the cheeks. These spots, called Koplik spots, resemble tiny grains of grayish white sand surrounded by a red ring.
Addison disease Addison Disease In Addison disease, the adrenal glands are underactive, resulting in a deficiency of adrenal hormones. Addison disease may be caused by an autoimmune reaction, cancer, an infection, or some... read more and certain cancers (such as malignant melanoma Melanoma Melanoma is a skin cancer that begins in the pigment-producing cells of the skin (melanocytes). Melanomas can begin on normal skin or in existing moles. They may be irregular, flat or raised... read more ) can cause dark color changes.
In a person with AIDS, purplish patches caused by Kaposi sarcoma Kaposi Sarcoma Kaposi sarcoma is a skin cancer that causes multiple flat pink, red, or purple patches or bumps on the skin. It is caused by human herpesvirus type 8 infection. One or a few spots may appear... read more may appear on the palate.
Small red spots on the palate (roof of the mouth) can be a sign of a blood disorder or infectious mononucleosis Infectious Mononucleosis Epstein-Barr virus causes a number of diseases, including infectious mononucleosis. The virus is spread through kissing. Symptoms vary, but the most common are extreme fatigue, fever, sore throat... read more .
Mouth conditions that cause color change may or may not represent a problem. For example, white areas can appear anywhere in the mouth and often are simply food debris that can be wiped away. White areas may also be caused by cheek biting or by rubbing the cheeks or tongue on a sharp part of a tooth or dental filling. However, because more persistent white areas can be an early sign of mouth cancer Mouth and Throat Cancer Mouth and throat cancers are cancers that originate on the lips, the roof, sides, or floor of the mouth, tongue, tonsils, or back of the throat. Mouth and throat cancers may look like open sores... read more , they should always be evaluated by a dentist or doctor. White areas can indicate many other conditions besides cancer, such as a yeast infection (candidiasis Candidiasis Candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by several species of the yeast Candida, especially Candida albicans. The most common type of candidiasis is a superficial infection of the mouth, vagina... read more ), thick white folds (a hereditary condition called white sponge nevus), a white line running along the inside of the cheek opposite the teeth (linea alba), and a grayish white area of the mucosa (leukoedema).
Examples of color changes in the mouth include the following:
The mouth may have dark blue or black areas due to silver amalgam from a dental filling, graphite from falling with a pencil in the mouth, or a mole.
Heavy cigarette smoking can lead to dark brown or black discoloration (usually of the gums) called smoker’s melanosis.
Brown areas in the mouth can be hereditary. For example, darkly pigmented areas are particularly common among dark-skinned and Mediterranean people.
Food pigments, aging, and smoking may cause teeth to darken or yellow.
Minocycline, an antibiotic, discolors bone, which may show through near the teeth as gray or brown. Children's teeth darken noticeably and permanently after even short-term use of tetracyclines (a class of antibiotic) by the mother during the second half of pregnancy or by the child during tooth development (specifically calcification of the crowns, which lasts until age 9).
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