Oral Piercings and Dental Issues
By: Dr. Donald Gundlach
Over the years, oral piercings have become a popular fad among both men and women. While they may seem like a fashionable addition to your overall appearance, oral piercings come with a lot of risk and potential for long-term health issues. Read on to learn about the dental issues associated with oral piercings.
Oral Piercing Complications
Though you may consider oral piercings stylish or attractive, keep in mind that piercings require care and a hygiene routine to keep them healthy. Here are a few potential complications of oral piercings:
- Chipping and fracturing of teeth. The metal of a lip or tongue piercing can crack or break your tooth, which can expose a nerve and lead to the need for a root canal or other dental work. Though a cracked or broken tooth can be repaired, keep in mind that anything manmade is a severe compromise over your original tooth structure. The materials used to repair teeth are not as strong as natural teeth and will have to be replaced over a lifetime. Overall, its best to keep your natural teeth healthy for as long as possible, and you can do this by avoiding lip and tongue piercings.
- Allergic reaction. Many tongue piercings are made with nickel, which many people find they’re allergic to. Unfortunately, the way many discover this allergy is by having an allergic reaction to the piercing after it’s placed.
- Potential to swallow parts. It’s possible to swallow part of a piercing that comes loose or breaks over time.
- Infection. Your mouth is filled with millions of bacteria. When you pierce your tongue, risk of infection is great because the piercing is constantly exposed to that bacteria. In addition, a condition called Endocarditis can occur when the bloodstream is exposed to the bacteria and can cause severe complications.
- Speech and chewing changes. It can be more difficult to speak or chew normally after a piercing, thought this may get better over time with practice.
- Immediate swelling. Everyone’s bodies react differently to piercings. If you have extreme swelling, it can potentially block airways and make it difficult to breathe for an extended period of time.
- Split tongue/bifid tongue. In some cases, an oral piercing will split the tongue in half causing a lengthwise cleft where the appearance resembles a snake’s tongue.
- Gingiva trauma. This is more common in lip piercings, as the piercing can come into contact with the gums and cause scratching, cuts, or other trauma that can lead to infection.
Can You Remove an Oral Piercing?
If you remove an oral piercing, there is a chance that the hole won’t heal and you’re left with a laceration on your tongue for a long time. This is also true for lip piercings. If the hole doesn’t heal, the opening can be exposed to constant bacteria and lead to an infection, virus, hepatitis, or systemic infection. You’ll also have to live with a constant source of irritation when you eat, drink, or brush your teeth.
If you do decide to get an oral piercing, it’s important to maintain a daily oral hygiene routine that involves brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and monitoring your piercing for any changes in appearance and feel. Ask your dentist for more information about the potential issues with oral piercings, and consider if it’s worth the risk of infection, tooth trauma, and more.