Gingival hyperpigmentation or gingival pigmentation is often caused by excess production of melanin,a natural pigment that gives skin its color and that is produced by skin cells called melanocytes. In other words, genetics plays a large role in pigmentation, which may be completely benign.
Lifestyle factors can also influence pigmentation, such as smoking, medications, and possibly oral hygiene. Although gingival pigmentation is not commonly associated with medical conditions, it is important that patients do not ignore possible discoloration as it could be an indication of other etiologies. Like all changes to health, this issue should not be dismissed.
However, most patients seeking treatment for depigmentation say it is to increase self-confidence in both their personal and professional lives by a change in their esthetic appearance. With today’s innovative and minimally invasive technologies, such as dental lasers, there is no need for patients to be discontent with their smiles. Providers can empower patients by using dental lasers to manage gingival pigmentation and also benefit their practice.
Treating gingival pigmentation
In cases where gum pigmentation becomes apparent, a dental laser is an effective method for reducing or removing melanin. Lasers can ablate melanocytes, which can eliminate the production of melanin in the gingiva and result in the pinker gingival complex some patients seek.1
Patient and practitioner benefits
I personally use the Waterlase (Biolase) all-tissue laser,2 a minimally invasive technology that can selectively de-epithelialize and remove the associated melanin without using consuming techniques, blades, or burs. Patients benefit from laser depigmentation3 over traditional methods because of the faster procedure time, decreased discomfort, and quicker postoperative healing time.
A major benefit of using a dental laser for this procedure is that lasers provide excellent visual access with minimal hemorrhage and garner a high visibility, thus allowing practitioners to effectively identify the melanin responsible for the pigmentation.4 Additionally, there is the same-day procedure element, which allows for less chance of recurrence and increased patient satisfaction and comfort as patients don’t have to arrange multiple follow-up appointments or spend excess time in the dental chair. Gum depigmentation with a laser is predictable and functional and often completed with minimal use of local anesthetic, which patients appreciate.
These benefits not only generate a positive patient experience that keeps them returning for future visits, but the speed and accuracy of dental laser technology allow the practitioner to treat more patients on any given day. Having loyal patients who return and share their experience with others (and encourage them to do the same) while also being able to serve more patients in less time directly impacts the practice’s bottom line and can support return on investment (ROI) via value-added revenue.
Editor's note: This article appeared in the August 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.
- Gum depigmentation. Biolase. https://www.biolase.com/procedures/dentists/gum-depigmentation/
- Waterlase award-winning all-tissue lasers. Biolase. https://www.biolase.com/products/dental-lasers-all-tissue/
- Gholami L, Moghaddam SA, Ladiz MAR, et al. Comparison of gingival depigmentation with Er,Cr:YSGG laser and surgical stripping, a 12-month follow-up. Lasers Med Sci. 2018;33(8):1647-1656. doi:10.1007/s10103-018-2501-1
- Low SB, Berger M. How to effectively use dental laser technology for gingiva depigmentation and gum bleaching. Dentaltown. February 2020. https://www.dentaltown.com/magazine/article/7913/laser-focused