An amalgam tattoo refers to a deposit of particles in the tissue of your mouth, usually from a dental procedure. This deposit looks like a flat blue, gray, or black spot. While amalgam tattoos are harmless, it can be alarming to find a new spot in your mouth. In addition, some amalgam tattoos can look like a mucosal melanoma.
Keep reading to learn more about amalgam tattoos, including how to tell them apart from melanoma and whether they require treatment.
While amalgam tattoos occur somewhat frequently, melanomas are rarer. However, melanomas are a serious condition that require quick treatment, so it’s important to know how to correctly tell the difference between the two.
An amalgam tattoo usually appears close to a recently filled cavity, but it can also appear on your inner cheeks or other part of your mouth. They tend to show up in the days or weeks following a dental procedure, thought it can take longer. Amalgam tattoos don’t cause any symptoms and they’re not raised or painful. They also don’t bleed or grow over time.
Oral malignant melanomas are a rare type of cancer, accounting for less than 8 percent of all cancerous melanomas. While they often don’t cause any symptoms, they can grow, bleed, and eventually become painful.
Left untreated, melanomas spread more aggressively than other types of cancer. If you notice a new spot in your mouth and haven’t had any recent dental work done, make an appointment with your doctor. They can help to determine whether it’s melanoma or something else, such as a blue nevus.
Amalgam is a blend of metals, including mercury, tin, and silver. Dentists sometimes use it to fill dental cavities. During a filling procedure, stray amalgam particles sometimes make their way to nearby tissue in your mouth. This can also happen when you have a tooth with an amalgam filling removed or polished. The particles seep into the tissue in your mouth, where they create a dark-colored spot.
In most cases, your doctor or dentist can diagnose an amalgam tattoo just by looking at it, especially if you’ve recently had dental work done or have an amalgam filling nearby. Sometimes, they might take an X-ray to see if the mark contains metal.
If they’re still not sure whether the spot is an amalgam tattoo, they may perform a quick biopsy procedure. This involves taking a small tissue sample from the spot and checking for cancer cells. An oral biopsy will help your doctor rule out melanoma or any other type of cancer.
Amalgam tattoos don’t cause any health problems so they don’t require treatment. However, you may want to have it removed for cosmetic reasons.
Your dentist can remove an amalgam tattoo using laser treatment. This involves using a diode laser to stimulate the skin cells in the area. Stimulating these cells helps to dislodge trapped amalgam particles.
Following a laser treatment, you’ll need to use a very soft toothbrush to stimulate new cell growth for a few weeks.
If you notice a dark or bluish patch of tissue in your mouth, it’s more likely to be an amalgam tattoo than something serious, such as melanoma. However, you should contact your doctor if you notice a dark spot in your mouth and haven’t recently had any dental work done.
You should also contact your doctor right away if the spot starts to grow or change in shape. They can perform a biopsy on the area to rule out any kind of oral cancer. If you do have an amalgam tattoo, you don’t need any treatment, though you can have it removed with a laser if you prefer.