Body piercing has become increasingly popular over the years. Tongue and other oral piercings may be trendy and look cool, but they can lead to dangerous side effects and dental problems. Since the mouth is full of bacteria, it’s common for oral piercings to get infected – leading to swelling, pain, and other harmful side effects. Infection is not the only problem, though. Teeth, gums, and even nerves can be damaged due to the piercing process or from the piercings themselves. It’s best to stay away from oral piercings altogether, but if you already have one, some simple precautionary measures can help you to avoid issues down the road.
Types of Oral Piercings
Some of the most common oral piercings are:
- Tongue – Tongue piercings typically involve inserting a surgical steel or titanium barbell through the middle or down both sides of your tongue (known as venoms).
- Cheeks – Sometimes called dimple piercings, cheek piercing usually consists of piercing both cheeks at the same time. Just like tongue piercings, barbells are used.
- Lips – There are many types of lip piercings, and they often come with interesting names like angel bites or shark bites. Most are simply made up of two to four piercings with circular barbells, captive rings, labret lip loops, or labret studs.
- Uvula – Do you know that tiny piece of tissue that hangs in the back of your throat? That’s your uvula. It isn’t a popular piercing because it often brings out a person’s gag reflex. Captive bead rings and circular barbells made out of stainless steel, titanium, or niobium can be worn on the uvula.
Potential Side Effects
While piercings can make it hard to speak properly or chew, other possible side effects can be severe. People who suffer from an autoimmune disease, heart disease, hemophilia, or diabetes should avoid any type of piercing. They often have trouble healing and have a greater risk of experiencing complications. As with any medical procedure, make sure that you carefully evaluate whether or not the outcome is worth the risks.
Oral piercings can lead to:
- Hepatitis – If piercing instruments are not properly disinfected and cleaned, it is possible to contract Hepatitis C.
- Tetanus – Any time metal makes contact with your body, you run the risk of getting tetanus. Ensure that you have an updated tetanus shot before receiving any piercing.
- Choking – If your tongue swells during the healing process or due to infection, it could block your airway and cause trouble breathing. It is also possible to choke, especially at night, due to pieces of jewelry falling off into your airway.
- Infection – The most common side effect of oral piercings is an infection. Swelling, redness, and pain are typical during the healing process. If the piercing is infected, though, it can be life-threatening if left untreated.
- Nerve Damage – Nerves run throughout your tongue and face. If a nerve is accidentally hit during piercing, it may cause permanent nerve damage. Some people report that their sense of taste was impacted while others have experienced numbness or difficulties moving parts of their mouth.
- Gum Damage – As metal continuously makes contact with your gums, it can cause them to recede. Not only can this be painful as nerve endings are exposed, but it can lead to tooth decay.
- Tooth Damage – Mentioned above, gum damage can lead to tooth sensitivity and deterioration. Piercings also commonly cause chipped or cracked teeth when they hit against the teeth or are accidentally bitten.
- Hypersensitivity to Metals – Many people do not tolerate metal well. It’s also possible to have an allergic reaction to the piercing jewelry.
- Drooling – Tongue piercings, in particular, can cause saliva production to increase, making drooling an issue.
- Scarring – Every type of body piercing will create scar tissue.
- Saliva Duct Damage – When piercing the cheeks, it is possible to rupture a saliva duct. If this happens, saliva will ooze out of your piercing until it is cauterized.
- Breathing Disorders – Uvula piercings reduce the diameter of the nasal passage, causing breathing disorders in some people while they sleep.
- Problems During Dental Visits – Having metal in your mouth complicates the x-ray process while you are at the dentist. If x-rays cannot be done effectively, your oral health may suffer.
Tips if You Already Have a Piercing
The American Dental Association cautions people to think carefully before acquiring any type of oral piercing because it truly requires daily maintenance and care. If you already have a piercing, here are some tips:
- Be careful when eating.
- Use a mouth rinse several times a day, especially after eating, to remove anything that might collect around your piercing.
- Keep the piercing area clean and avoid touching it.
- Check your jewelry daily to make sure it is tightly secured.
- Try not to play with the jewelry by hitting it onto your teeth or gums.
- Remove jewelry when playing sports.
- If you encounter any side effects, contact your dentist immediately.
Is an Oral Piercing Right for You?
Many people see body piercing as a form of self-expression, so there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to oral piercing. Dentists do not recommend oral piercings due to the potential risks involved, but the decision is ultimately up to you.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at Ideal Dental Solutions today. We’d be happy to discuss the piercing process with you so that you make an informed decision. Smile! It’s good for you.