When plaque builds up on teeth and isn’t properly removed it forms into a hard substance known as tartar. Initially, tartar above the gum line has a yellowish hue, however, if left untreated it will turn into green, brown or black tartar. Tartar below the gum line is sometimes black in color depending on how long it remains there.
Poor oral hygiene is often the leading cause of tartar buildup. For tartar to turn black or form below the gum line, improper brushing and flossing is usually the culprit. Additionally, certain other factors contribute to the rate of tartar formation and can turn it black; these include:
- Diets high in starch and sugar
- Drinking liquids which stain such as coffee and wine
- Trauma or damage to the gums or tooth’s enamel
There are blood vessels located within your gums, so when tartar reaches below the gum line, referred to as subgingival tartar, and sits there for a long time, it will absorb some blood. When blood pigmentation and proteins mix with tartar, they turn the gums around the teeth black.
Signs of black gums around teeth include:
- Bad breath
- Dark staining on the surface of the teeth
- Loose teeth
- Hard deposits on the teeth
- Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
- Red, swollen gums can also be an indication of other oral concerns such as dental abscess or gum disease.
If you’re experiencing black gums along your gum line along with gum issues, it may be a sign of gum disease. If still in the early stages, your dental professional may recommend rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash and/or brushing with an antimicrobial toothpaste to help reverse gum disease and keep your gums healthy.
All forms of tartar, no matter the color, should only be removed by your dentist or dental hygienist. The cleaning process your dentist will undertake is known as scaling and root planing, where black tartar is scraped off above and below the gum line.
Fortunately, tartar buildup can be prevented with a few simple steps:
- Brush at least twice a day for two minutes at a time
- If you’re prone to excessive plaque buildup it’s recommended to brush after every meal
- Switch to a tartar control toothpaste with fluoride to prevent decay and buildup
- Floss at least once a day to remove any food and bacteria trapped between teeth
- Visit your dentist twice a year, or as recommended, for professional cleanings and checkups
- Avoid tobacco products
Black or darkened gums is often an issue for aesthetics; no one wants to have a stained smile. However, in certain cases, it can lead to gum disease. See your dentist right away to properly remove any tartar buildup so your smile stays healthy.
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