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July 1988

Traditional Tattooing of the Gingiva: An Eritrean Folk Medicine Practice

Author Affiliations

Department of Dermatology University of Essen Hufelandstrasse 55 D-4300 Essen 1, West Germany

Arch Dermatol. 1988;124(7):1018-1019. doi:10.1001/archderm.1988.01670070020011

To the Editor.—  Refugees or immigrants have brought with them not only the diseases endemic to their native countries, but also, partly, their traditional habits and the subsequent consequences. This case describes a 25-year-old Eritrean woman with a relatively unknown pigmentation of the gingiva due to traditional tattooing with soot.

Report of a Case.—  A 25-year-old woman, who had immigrated to Germany in 1970, was referred to our department in January 1986 for evaluation and therapy of chronic pruritus with atopic dermatitis. She was five months' pregnant. On oral examination, her maxillary facial gingiva showed a bluish-black bilateral coloration extending from the first molar to the first molar region (Fig 1). There were no signs of oral cavity disease; the teeth were in excellent condition (Fig 2). On request, the patient said that, in the province of Eritrea, there is a traditional custom of tattooing the facial upper gingiva of

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