Something to Chew On
Dangers of Oral Piercings

The Serious Risk of Oral Piercings 

Maybe you or your friends have considered, or already have, mouth jewelry. Though it may look stylish, it's our job as dental providers to alert you to the harmful effects of this trend.

There are some common risk of oral piercing that are important to consider before having one done, or continuing to wear one.

  • Since your month contains millions of bacteria, oral piercings may easily become infected.

  • Your tongue- the most popular piercing site in the mouth- could swell large enough to block your airway.

  • Piercings can cause uncontrollable bleeding and nerve damage.

  • You can choke on any studs, barbells, or hoops that come loose in your mouth.

  • Teeth may be chipped or cracked from contact with the jewelry, one study in a dental journal reported that 47% of people wearing barbell tongue jewelry for 4 or more years had a least one chipped tooth.

  • Bacteria breeding around your piercing can cause bad breath.

  • Transmission of diseases, Oral piercing is a potential risk factor for the transmission of herpes and hepatitis B and C.

  • Because of the wound created by the piercing, there's a chance that bacteria could enter the bloodstream and lead to the development of endocarditis-- and inflammation of the heart or its valves.

  • Difficulties in daily oral functions. Tongue piercing can result in difficulty chewing and swallowing food and speaking clearly. The jewelry stimulates and excessive production of saliva. Drooling is possible consequence of increased saliva production. 

  • Gum disease--People with oral piercings have a greater risk of gum disease than those with oral piercings.The jewelry can come into contact with gum tissue causing injury as well gum recession, which can leas to loose teeth and tooth loss
  • Tasting ability can also be altered

  • Allergic reaction can occur.

Also keep in mind that since your oral health is closely linked to your overall health, the effects of an oral piercing may have a greater impact than you realize. You are not only risking your oral health, but also the well-being of your entire body.

You have decided to move forward

If you have decided to go through with the oral piercing procedure despite all risks we have mentioned, consider the following tips when looking for an oral piercing studio.
  • Ask friends who have had their tongue, lips, or cheeks pierced -- and have suffered no ill consequences -- to recommend the name of the studio they visited.
  • Visit the studio. Does the studio have a clean appearance, especially the area where the piercing is done? Ask if they use hospital-grade autoclaves for sterilization and/or use disposable instruments. Does the staff use disposable gloves?
  • Ask to see the studio's health certificates.
  • Are all the needles, as well as the studs, hoops, and barbells, kept in sterilized packaging?
  • Are all staff members involved in the piercings vaccinated against hepatitis B? They should be.

If the staff is not friendly or willing to answer all of your questions, consider finding another piercing studio.

The healing process

A pierced tongue can take four to six weeks to heal. Pierced lips take between one and two months to heal. During this healing period, here's what you should do:

  • Avoid alcohol, spicy foods, and hard and sticky foods.
  • Don't smoke or use tobacco products.
  • Brush after every meal and rinse with a mouthwash, such as Listerine.
  • Rinse your mouth frequently with warm salt water.
  • Eat soft foods. Consult with your dentist about taking  vitamins to promote faster healing.
  • Make an appointment with your dentist if you suspect a problem or have a concern. It is critical for dentists to check your teeth, gums, tongue, and soft tissues for early signs of any problems.

Waring Signs of needing medical attention

If you notice any of the following warning signs after getting an oral piercing, contact a healthcare professional right away:

  • Yellow or green discharge from the piercing site (Note: A whitish or clear discharge is normal)
  • Scarring or thickened tissue that builds up and darkens around the piercing site
  • Increased redness, pain and tenderness, or swelling at the piercing site
  • A pimple-like abscess on the piercing site
  • Bleeding or tearing after the initial healing of the piercing
  • A low-grade fever that is persistent in the days following piercing.

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