What Is a Dental Amalgam Tattoo?

It can be a bit scary when you first notice it. That strange spot on your gums – it may be kind of a dark blue, or black, or even grey. What is that spot, and should you see your dentist or doctor about it?

The tattoo you didn’t even know you had

Odds are that if you notice a spot on your gums, it’s what’s known as an “amalgam tattoo,” a leftover from an old metal amalgam filling. Nowadays, fillings are commonly made of resin or porcelain, but years ago fillings were made of materials such as tin, copper, mercury, and silver.

An amalgam tattoo may appear after a trip to your dentist’s office, after he or she drills your tooth to remove decay or to remove an old filling. One of these procedures may cause the old filling (or part of it) to be pushed down into the gums. These fillings can even wind up in the lips or cheeks.

Should you see your doctor?

Amalgam tattoos are harmless, and you don’t even need to have them removed.

However, you should also be aware of mucosal melanomas, which look very similar to amalgam tattoos. Mucosal melanomas are a rare type of cancer that can occur in people who have used tobacco for many years, and they can be deadly. Although they may look like an amalgam tattoo, a melanoma will also be swollen and painful, and someone with this type of cancer may notice that dentures don’t fit like they used to. They can appear in the mouth or in the inner part of the sinus cavity, but can be found in other parts of the body as well.

Your dentist can x-ray your gums if you are wondering about any gum discoloration, to make sure an amalgam tattoo is the problem; however, if you are a long-time smoker or have any other signs that it may be a melanoma you should see your doctor or dentist right away.

Whether you are concerned about a spot on your gums or you need expert cosmetic dentistry, Lerner & Lemongello can help. Call the office in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, at (561) 627-9000!

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