The Danger of Piercings in Your Mouth

Body adornments are all the rage. It is true adornments go as far back as 1500 A.D., but perhaps they didn’t know the dangers. In most cases, piercings and tattoos are performed uneventfully, however oral piercings run risks due to the amount of bacteria in the oral cavity. Is your son or daughter contemplating a lip, cheek, or tongue piercing? If so, perhaps this blog will help inform their decision.  If you or someone you know has questions regarding oral piercings, your dentist can attend to your concerns and share vital information on how to care for piercings.

There are millions of bacteria in your mouth, mostly residing on your tongue, making infection a common complication of oral piercings. This high concentration of bacteria and other micro-organisms creates a high risk of infection, especially when the barrier of the skin is pierced. Decaying food particles and touching the jewelry with unsanitary hands increases the risk for infection.

There are other complications as well. For instance, 50% of barbell-shaped piercings cause damage to the gingival tissue. This can lead to redness, irritation, bleeding, and infection. Periodontal infection can eventually lead to tooth loss and other complications like degeneration of the alveolar (the section of the jaw that supports the teeth). Thirty-five percent of non-barbell type piercings presented with receding gums. This can be from the post or button of the stud continuously rubbing against the gum tissue, not only causing irritation but causing the tissue to recede. In 1998, the American Dental Association opposed intra-oral piercings due to these and other factors including:

  • Blood poisoning
  • Blood clots
  • Chipped, cracked, or fractured teeth
  • Pulpal sensitivity
  • Swelling of the tongue leading to restricted breathing
  • Pain
  • Nerve damage
  • Drooling

How to Care For Your Piercing

While tongue piercing can take anywhere from four to six weeks to heal completely, lip and cheek piercings can take months. If you decide on an oral piercing, it is essential to keep it clean. There are strict measures to take during the healing process, but once it is healed you must continue to maintain good oral hygiene:

  •  Remove the piercing each night and brush it, as well as your teeth.
  • Rinse with antiseptic mouthwash after every meal.
  • Wash hands with antibacterial soap before touching the piercing.
  •  Keep the jewelry away from your teeth and gums.