Burton's line

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Burton's line
Differential diagnosisChronic lead poisoning

Burton's line, also known as the Burton line or Burtonian line, is a clinical sign found in patients with chronic lead poisoning. It is a very thin, black-blue line visible along the margin of the gums, at the base of the teeth.[1][2]

The sign was described in 1840 by Henry Burton:[3]

The edges of the gums attached to the necks of two or more teeth of either jaw, were distinctly bordered by a narrow leaden-blue line, about the one-twentieth part of an inch in width, whilst the substance of the gum apparently retained its ordinary colour and condition.

A similar line, the "bismuth line", occurs in people who have ingested bismuth compounds; bismuth, however, is of very low toxicity.


  1. ^ Pearce JM (2007). "Burton's line in lead poisoning". Eur. Neurol. 57 (2): 118–9. doi:10.1159/000098100. PMID 17179719. Retrieved 2009-03-21.
  2. ^ Helmich, Friederike; Lock, Guntram (2018-11-08). "Burton's Line from Chronic Lead Intoxication". New England Journal of Medicine. 379 (19): e35. doi:10.1056/NEJMicm1801693. ISSN 0028-4793. PMID 30403939.
  3. ^ Burton H: "On a remarkable effect on the human gums produced by the absorption of lead". Med Chir Trans 1840;23:63-79.