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What is an Amalgam Tattoo?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An amalgam tattoo is an area of discoloration in the mouth caused by the migration of particles of dental amalgam which become embedded under the oral membranes, causing a patch of gray, black, or blue to appear. Amalgam tattoos are very common in people who have fillings and crowns, and they are not a cause for concern, unless people are bothered by their appearance. However, some oral cancers can look like amalgam tattoos in their early stages, so it is important to confirm that a dark patch is indeed an amalgam tattoo, and not something more sinister.

Most commonly, amalgam tattoos form during dental procedures, in which flecks of amalgam may be accidentally chipped off and embedded in the gums, cheeks, roof of the mouth, or tongue. Dentists can reduce the risk of this by using protective dams in the mouth for procedures. It is also possible for a filling or crown to rub off on the surrounding tissue, causing a dark blotch to appear on the membranes of the mouth. Usually, the patch of color is small and isolated.

Many people with these marks are unaware that they have them. An amalgam tattoo may be identified by a dentist during a routine checkup, or spotted by a sharp-eyed friend or doctor. When a dark patch does appear in someone's mouth, a dentist will usually review the patient's dental history and take x-rays to confirm that the spot is an amalgam tattoo. Flecks of metal in the x-ray and a history of filled teeth or crowns usually verify the diagnosis, although it is also possible to take a biopsy for study.

If an amalgam tattoo grows, changes shape, or becomes very tender to the touch, it may be a sign of oral cancer or another dental problem. People should keep an eye on their amalgam tattoos, and they should discuss any changes which occur with a dentist. Catching the signs of a more serious problem early increase the probability of resolving the problem painlessly and quickly. Treatment for dental problems should never be delayed, as the problem will only get more complex and more challenging to treat with time.

Some people are bothered by irregular mouth pigmentation, especially if it appears around the lips. A minor surgery can be used to remove the discolored area of the mouth. A dentist may also recommend replacing an older filling or crown to reduce the amount of free-floating dental amalgam in the mouth so that the discoloration does not recur.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By BigBloom — On Feb 18, 2011

@hangugeo112

You are right, the practice of using braces is usually just for the sake of attaining an ideal smile. Like everything in our modernized culture, we are expected to be squeaky clean and perfect, attaining to the example of hollywood stars, in terms of beauty and perfection. People use all sorts of unnatural means to get that perfect body, perfect hair, and perfect smile. It is very sad to see that natural beauty is no longer appreciated in many places. Poor self-conscious girls shower themselves with makeup because of a culture that is obsessed with image.

By hangugeo112 — On Feb 16, 2011

@BigBloom

Braces are a helpful invention which permit people to have healthy straight white smiles. Before braces were invented, people were unable to deal with harmful dental issues, and were left with bizarre and unattractive smiles.

By BigBloom — On Feb 14, 2011

Braces can cause all sorts of longterm oral damage and cause the gums to recede. I think that using braces is an unnatural process, and yet another example of the medical community trying to make a buck off of ostensibly legitimate practices which have more negative than positive side-effects. Amalgam tattoos are just one small example of the potentially harmful and ruinous effects that braces have.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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