OBJECTIVE: Argyria is generally classified as localized or generalized condition. Distinct pigmentation of the oral mucosa in the vicinity of amalgam fillings is often referred to as amalgam tattoos. Pigmented areas can also be associated with silver-containing corrosion products of dental alloys used for prosthetic restorations. Silver-containing electron dense particles (Ag-EDPs) are frequently found in pigmented areas. We attempted to correlate results of the elemental composition of Ag-EDPs with excerpts from health profiles of our study paticipants.
DESIGN/SETTING: Eight patients with diagnosed signs of localized argyria were investigated in this study. Biopsies from distinctly pigmented gingival areas were subjected to histological examination, electron microscopy and x-ray microanalysis.
RESULTS: Elemental composition of Ag-EDPs determined by x-ray microanalysis showed mainly silver in combination with sulfur or selenium or a combination of both chalcogens. Elemental analyzes results of Ag-EDPs were analyzed along with excerpts from the patient's clinical records. Two patients with low or undetectable selenium in the Ag-EDPs suffered from autoimmune thyroiditis, Parkinson's disease, bronchial asthma, and allergies to molds, pollen and dust.
CONCLUSIONS: We suggest that selenium in Ag-EDPs is a product of the detoxification process for Ag(+) ions in gingival tissue and that it may reflect the availability of endogenous selenium for physiological processes in the human body. Its presence or absence might thus be used as another marker of a patient's health status.