While the practice of piercing the lip, tongue or cheek can be attractive, particularly to young people, many don’t fully understand the risks associated with oral piercings. In fact, these piercings can be very detrimental to oral health and can cause a number of complications.
Dental Health Risks:
- Infections: one of the most common complications associated with oral piercings are infections. Because of the large amount of bacteria in the mouth, infection can occur when the piercing creates a wound, which can also contain additional bacteria on its surface. Because the mouth is a moist place, it is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, meaning that infection can spread quickly. It’s important to treat any infection promptly as it can quickly become dangerous if left untreated.
- Swelling: Given the trauma that occurs when your tongue, cheek or lip is pierced, significant swelling and bruising is expected. Usually this will begin to subside after three to five days. Depending on the level of trauma, in some rare cases, the tongue can become extremely swollen which can block the airway, although this is uncommon.
- Difficulties in oral function: While the area around the piercing is swollen, oral function such as speaking clearly and swallowing may be more difficult until the area heals. In some cases, there can be a permanent loss of sensation if nerves are damaged during the piercing. The jewellery can also stimulate excessive saliva production, which can cause temporary or permanent drooling.
- Damage to teeth: When teeth come into contact with the hard metal surface of jewellery, they can chip or crack. A high proportion of individuals with tongue rings damage their teeth.
- Nerve damage: Sometimes a piercing can damage a nerve, which can, in turn, cause numbness or loss of sensation around the piercing.
- Gum disease: Studies have found that those people with oral piercings, especially tongue piercings, have a much higher risk of gum disease than those who have no piercings. This is because the jewellery can cause a recession of gum tissue by frequently coming into contact with gums. In severe cases, this can lead to tooth loss.
- Transmission of diseases: Piercings can potentially transmit diseases such as hepatitis B and C as well as the herpes simplex virus.
- Allergic reaction: Some people discover that they are allergic to the metal in the piercing, which is known as hypersensitivity to metal.