When you think about tattoos, does a trip to the dentist ever come to mind?
Although most people would respond no, dental tattoos exist. The concept is exactly what you would think - teeth meet ink.
Dentists use ultra?-fine brushes and stencils to paint images on molars and bicuspids. Like a tattoo on any other part of the body, teeth tats can be permanent. The mouth ink is an emerging trend, though only in certain circles.
The catch is, the tattoo has to be imprinted on a cap or crown, not the tooth itself. This is likely better, since crowns can be removed. Besides, ink on teeth could paint a picture for bad breath.
They range in price, but most cost under $200. Certain dental staff specialize in chomper customization. A mini heart, the Rolling Stones tongue and NFL team logos are among the images emblazoned on teeth.
Despite the trend's recent surge, the technique isn't new. The Surburbia Dental Laboratory in Bloomfield, Connecticut, made its first tattooed crown almost 20 years ago, when a customer requested an image of a corvette to be added to a crown.
A tooth tattoo does not damage teeth and can be left in place for years, like traditional porcelain crowns. Created for molars and bicuspids, other temporary ivory art can be made to last three months. In these cases, they can removed in five minutes in the dentist's office with polishing and a rubber wheel.
Dental tattoos versus amalgam tattoos
On the other hand, amalgam tattoos are something far different. Amalgam tattoos, a gray, blue or black area of discoloration in the mouth, are made up of tiny metal particles from the filling or crown that become embedded in the tissue. Named for their resemblance to normal tattoos, amalgam tats are caused by traumatic implantation of dental amalgam into soft tissue. In other words, they are created while a dentist is placing or removing fillings or crowns that contain metal. They can also occur during other procedures such as tooth extractions or root canal treatments - both of these underlying problems are big causes of bad breath.
Amalgam tattoos may appear on the gums, cheek, lips, tongue or roof of the mouth. The affected areas are flat and typically quite small - only a few millimeters - but they may be relatively easy to see.
These tattoos are not dangerous and do not cause harm. However, a tiny percentage of gray-blue areas are not amalgam tattoos, but may be precancerous, non-cancerous or even a normal blood vessel. If you are worried about them, contact an oral surgeon or dentist with special training in pathology or oral medicine.