Think oral piercings are cool and want to get one? You may want to rethink that idea and do some homework on the risk factors before putting that small hole in your tongue, lip, cheek or uvula! Oral piercings have been a cool way of expressing yourself and wearing jewelry in the oral cavity but can be very dangerous to your teeth as well as your overall health. Your mouth is loaded with bacteria and these piercings can lead to infections and swelling. This swelling can quickly lead to the blockage of your airway causing difficulty breathing.
Risk factors to Oral Piercings:
- Choking hazard if they break off in your mouth
- Interfere with your speech
- Damage your tongue – nerve damage is usually temporary but can be permanent – this can affect your taste buds as well as how you move your mouth.
- Causes gum recession- according to the ADA 50% if individuals with lip piercings have gum recession and 44% who have tongue piercings.
- Chip your teeth or fillings
- Allergic reactions to the metals in the jewelry
- Excessive drooling – piercings increase salivary flow
Medical Concerns Oral Piercings can lead to:
- Gum Disease
- Uncontrolled bleeding, as your mouth is very vascular
- Long-term infections such as Hepatitis B & C
- If you have heart disease, diabetes or an autoimmune disease you have a higher risk of infection
If you choose to get an oral piercing make sure you protect yourself. Make sure you’re up on your hepatitis B and tetanus vaccines. Ask questions and make sure they are willing to answer them. You want a clean licensed shop that uses sterile tools or ones that are thrown away after each use. Be sure the piercer washes their hands with antimicrobial soap and wears disposable gloves, and finally make sure it is good quality jewelry that is made of surgical steel, solid gold or platinum. It usually takes 3-4 weeks for the area to heal after the piercing, during that time you want to make sure you take good care of the area to prevent infection. The following is recommended for best healing results:
- Rinse every time after eating and before bed- its recommended to use a warm- salt water rinse
- Avoid contact with other peoples saliva (kissing, sharing cups, utensils, etc…)
- Avoid spicy, salty or acid foods and drinks
- Avoid hot beverages
- Eat smaller bites of food
If you already have oral piercings be sure to keep the area clean, and if you notice any swelling or irritation contact your dental provider immediately. Please refrain from rubbing or playing with the piercing against your teeth. Also take it out when playing sports and periodically check the tightness. Overall, the best option would be to remove the piercing before it causes a problem.