REVIEW
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Diagnosis of oral pigmentations and malignant transformations.

BACKGROUND: Oral pigmentation is a common finding in the mouth. Pigmentation can be either normal or abnormal discoloration of oral mucous membrane. The purpose of this review mainly focuses on the main oral pigmented lesions, in order to help the clinicians establish a better approach towards the patients with pigmented oral lesions and to provide thorough knowledge regarding such lesions for patient reassurance, early definitive diagnosis and prompt treatment.

METHODS: Relevant data concerning oral pigmented lesions, clinical features and the possibility of malignant transformation of such lesions were reviewed thoroughly from pubmed literature published in English. Pigmented lesions affecting the skin were not included in our review.

RESULTS: Few pigmented lesions have been identified and their tendency to become malignant has been reported in the literature. The oral lesions showing malignant transformation reported were mostly case series. Unfortunately, due to lack of long-term studies, follow ups and randomized controlled studies in this respect it was difficult to draw a statistical analysis. This information is quite crucial for general dental practitioners to improve their understanding regarding oral lesions and to differentiate between normal and diseased conditions, so that they can master the skill of differential diagnosis, definitive diagnosis and prompt treatment.

CONCLUSION: Oral pigmentation may present as focal, multifocal or diffused macular or tumefactive lesions. They may greatly vary in color as blue, purple, brown, gray or black depending on the quantity and site of melanin in the tissues [1]. Etiology of pigmentation can be multi factorial. Mostly pigmentation is physiologic but at times it can be a precursor of severe diseases. Lesions may be caused by localized harmless accumulations of melanin, hemosiderin or exogenous metals or they may be a sign of underlying systemic or genetic disease. A few lesions may be associated with life-threatening medical conditions that require immediate intervention. The differential diagnosis for any pigmented lesion is extensive, as it includes examples of endogenous and exogenous pigmentations. Although biopsy is a helpful and necessary aid in the diagnosis of focally pigmented lesions, with diffuse pigmentation lesions require a thorough dental and medical history and laboratory investigations.

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