Dr. Ryan Hussong and the team at Cornerstone Dental often receive questions from concerned parents regarding the safety of oral piercings. For teenagers, oral piercings offer an opportunity to express themselves and assert their independence. For dentists, on the other hand, tongue, lip, and cheek piercings represent a serious health hazard. Dr. Hussong, a family dentist in Polk City, IA, reminds teens that even the cleanest mouth is home to millions of bacteria. The tissues in your mouth are highly sensitive, and the combination of an open wound—accidental or inflicted deliberately—and a bacteria-ridden environment often spells trouble for teeth and gums.
Understand the Dangers of Oral Piercings
The inside of your mouth is warm and humid, a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and a perfect storm for infection and irritation. These infections often begin mildly enough, usually with slight swelling and a touch of discomfort. Without treatment, the infection may worsen into something significantly more dangerous, such as endocarditis. A piercing performed under unsterile conditions carries greater risk. There have been cases, although rare, in which a routine tongue piercing became nightmarish when the mouth and tongue swelled so badly that the airway became obstructed. We see many cases where metal body jewelry cracks teeth or chips away bits of protective tooth enamel. Jewelry may loosen or break, creating a choking hazard.
Oral Piercing Risks Don’t Stop There
Unfortunately, that’s just the beginning. Other potential problems linked with oral piercings include:
Mouth and tongue: When you introduce a foreign object into your mouth, your body responds by producing excess saliva, which can result in drooling. Not cool! When a patient with an oral piercing requires an x-ray during a dental examination, the metal jewelry makes it difficult to obtain a clear, accurate image. As a result, we may have difficulties effectively screening for potentially serious oral health conditions. You could have an allergic reaction to certain types of metal jewelry, or you could sustain serious nerve damage at the hands of an inexperienced piercer.
Gums and teeth: Loose or poorly positioned jewelry rubs against gum tissue, increasing the risk of infection and gum disease. If metal jewelry scratches, breaks, or cracks teeth, teens may require extensive dental work to restore the health of their teeth. They make become more sensitive to hot and cold foods, and they could face a higher chance of losing their teeth. Sealants and fillings can crack or loosen, requiring more frequent trips to the dentist for repairs.
Caring for Oral Piercings
Although an oral piercing is less than ideal, excellent oral hygiene and regular visits with Dr. Hussong should reduce risk of infection and permanent damage. If you or your teeth has an oral piercing, remember these basic guidelines:
- Never participate in sports while wearing body jewelry in the mouth. Remove the jewelry, and always wear a mouthguard.
- Before you insert, remove, or adjust your body jewelry, wash your hands with warm water and soap. Ensure that all pieces are tightened so that they will not come loose.
- After you eat or drink, rinse your mouth with water so food does not become stuck in the piercing site.
Need more information about caring for oral piercings? To learn more about our services, or to schedule a dental appointment with Dr. Ryan Hussong, contact Cornerstore Dental at 515-984-6001. We serve patients living in Ankeny, Alleman, Ames, Grimes, and the surrounding areas.