Have you noticed a strange grey, bluish, or black spot on your gums? It can be disconcerting when you first notice it, but there’s a good chance that it is a harmless leftover from an old metal filling, referred to as an “amalgam tattoo.” Here’s the low down on what that spot may be and when you should see a dentist about any new colored spots in your mouth.
What is an amalgam tattoo?
People who are over a certain age probably have or have had metal amalgam fillings in their teeth. These fillings are made up of materials such as tin, copper, silver, and mercury. Over time, pieces of these fillings can find their way into the gums, or even into the cheeks, tongue, or lips.
An amalgam tattoo can be the result of a procedure at your dentist’s office. It may happen when he or she drills out tooth decay and some small pieces of the old filling get pushed into the gum or when an amalgam filling is being removed.
What else could it be?
The good news is that amalgam tattoos are harmless, and you don’t even have to worry about removing them. However, the bad news is that mucosal melanoma and an amalgam tattoo look very similar. Mucosal melanoma is a rare but deadly form of cancer that can occur in long-time tobacco users. It may look similar to an amalgam tattoo, but if it is melanoma there will also be swelling and pain in the mouth, and if you have dentures they may not fit as well as they used to. Mucosal melanomas usually appear in the inner part of the sinus cavity or in the palate. If you are concerned that your tattoo may be something more serious, you should see your dentist right away. He or she can give your gums an x-ray to determine what the spot is.