Piercings to the tongue, lips, cheeks or even uvula (the little flap at the back of the throat) are increasingly popular today in the way that pierced ears once were. However, unlike earlobes, oral piercings come with many potential health risks and complications:
- Infection, swelling and choking.Because the mouth is home to a number of bacteria, the risk for contracting infections like hepatitis or endocarditis is great. Piercings may cause the tongue to swell, which can block off your airway and prevent breathing. There is the added risk that you could accidentally swallow or choke on the metal jewellery, should it break or come apart in your mouth.
- Damaged teeth and gums. Excessive fiddling or “playing” with a piercing could chip off the enamel on your teeth or damage existing fillings, crowns, and caps. Gums may also become cracked or sensitive from the constant exposure to a piercing. Receding gums can make you more susceptible to periodontal disease and decay.
- Allergic reaction. It’s not uncommon for people to develop allergic reactions to the metal of piercings.
- Nerve damage. Although your tongue may go numb after a piercing, sometimes nerve damage can be permanent. Lack of sensation could affect your ability to move your mouth or tongue, an even diminish your sense of taste.
- Blood loss. Poking or piercing the blood vessels in your tongue during piercing could lead to severe blood loss.
- Drooling. A piercing in the tongue can cause the mouth to produce too much saliva. It can also affect your ability to swallow and speak properly.
- Dental complications. Jewellery can make it difficult for your dentist to perform routine X-rays and other necessary dental procedures.
The best advice about oral piercings like studs, tongue barbells and lip rings is to avoid getting them altogether. Failing that, make sure an experienced professional does the piercing.
Kids Dental Group recommends the following care tips for oral piercings:
- Clean the site with a mouth rinse after every meal, brush and floss every day.
- Avoid clicking and “playing” with the piercing to avoid potential infection and damage to teeth and gums.
- With clean hands, check and tighten piercings closures every now and then.
- Remove the piercing or wear mouth guard when playing sports.
- Have regular check-ups to make sure your mouth and teeth are healthy.