Have you ever seen a dark spot on your or someone else's lips? Have you wondered if it's a reason for concern? This dark area could be a melanotic macule, which is a noncancerous dark patch on the skin — called hyperpigmentation — of a mucous membrane. According to RDH Magazine, this common oral condition is present in 3 percent of the general population and is caused by a localized increase in the production of pigment.
Characteristics of a Melanotic Macule
This type of hyperpigmentation most often appears along the edge of the lower lip, although it may also appear on the upper lip, the gums or the palate. There may be just one spot or multiple. According to the Singapore Dental Journal, these spots are usually less than 1 centimeter across and have a well-defined smooth border. The spot is flat like a freckle and is typically light or dark brown.
The average age that a person develops a melanotic macule is 40, but one can occur at any age. These areas of hyperpigmentation are more frequently found in women than men. They also are present more often in people of color and usually develop during adolescence in these individuals.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you notice a pigmented lesion anywhere in or near your mouth, point it out at your next dental appointment. If you've had this spot for a while and it begins to change, make sure to mention this to your dental professional, as well.
Melanotic macules that are located on gum tissue can look similar to amalgam tattoos, a common oral condition that occurs when amalgam leaks outside of the tooth and causes discoloration. An X-ray taken at a dental visit can easily tell the difference between these two conditions. Once the pigmentation is confirmed to be a melanotic macule, no treatment is necessary since the lesion is benign.
Sometimes melanotic macules can resemble an oral melanoma, which is an aggressive form of cancer that is often overlooked. As such, it is important to have this area properly diagnosed by a dental professional. If your dentist is concerned about this possibility, he may recommend you to an oral surgeon so a biopsy may be conducted to rule out malignancy.
Oral cancer screenings are typically part of every dental exam, so with regular preventive care, any abnormalities should be detected early on. If you have any questions or concerns, always make sure to tell to your dental professional.