My Latest Tattoo

That title might not be accurate. I don’t really know when I got this particular tattoo – my fourth. But Lisa, you may ask, how can you not know? It turns out there’s a lot I don’t know about it, and perhaps you don’t either.

a view inside a dental exam room with the little sink and patient chair visible

Late last year, it was time for a teeth-cleaning appointment. After my wonderful hygienist did her thing, the dentist came in to take a look around. It’s all pretty routine. Dr. Edwards is my fave dentist ever. He’s funny, warm, loves his job and has a great wit and sense of humour.

He poked around in there, looking at what I thought was a new bump but is actually a normal piece of bone I’ve had all my life. I’m the kind of person who “discovers” things I’ve always had. After that, he went uncharacteristically quiet.

“Have you always had this? I don’t remember ever seeing this before.”

“Gwaanggg?”, I replied, with his fingers still in my mouth.

The sensitive area beneath my tongue was discoloured. Instead of fresh and happy red it was a stormy dark gray. I know because he held up a mirror so I could see. He looked concerned. What could it be? He mumbled a few things but the only one I heard was melanoma.

“But doc, I’ve never suntanned under my tongue”, I said, trying to lighten the mood. He gave a weak smile and said I’d need to see a specialist.

Dr. Keyvan Abbaszadeh is also a terrific doctor. He’s an oral surgeon who installed my tooth implant a few years ago. He looked around in my pie hole for a long time, pressing on this and pushing down on that. “Gagg agga gagg”, I asked. “I don’t really know”, he said. “I thought it was vascular but it’s not behaving the way I expected.” “Goog gnawwwgo”, I replied.

He needed to do a biopsy. Lucky for me, he could do it right away. No one wants to wait when they’ve got something unusual going on. In his words, “If it’s something sinister, we’ll take care of it”. I immediately burst into tears because I’m a big baby, but I got myself together quickly and let him cut out a piece of my tender under-tongue.

It hurts like hell when the freezing comes out but hey, it’s necessary.

It took more than a week for the results to come back. We were on our California trip when the doctor texted me, as I had requested.

“The biopsy was interpreted as an amalgam tattoo”, he wrote. “At some point, there was a filling that was being placed or removed and the mucosa (membrane) was traumatized and the filling material tattoed the tissue.”

And then he wrote the words I longed to hear. “There is nothing to worry about.”

An amalgam tattoo. I had never heard of such a thing and neither had anyone I’ve mentioned this to. The weird thing is, it’s in the shape of a heart and says “MOM” in the middle!

But seriously.

All sorts of strange stuff can happen that looks scary but won’t do you any harm. Bottom line: I got a free tattoo but it’s awfully tricky to show it.

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