Oral piercings are a popular form of self-expression. While people think they look cool, they can be hazardous to your health. That’s because your mouth contains millions of bacteria, and infection and swelling often occur with mouth piercings. For instance, your mouth and tongue could swell so much that you close off your airway or you could possibly choke if part of the jewelry breaks off in your mouth. Oral piercing could also lead to more serious infections, like hepatitis or endocarditis. Here’s what you should consider before going under the needle.
What are oral piercings?
Oral piercings are any piercings of the tongue, lips, cheek or uvula. Like any other piercing, a needle is used to create the opening through which the jewelry is housed. As with pierced ears, the metal jewelry used in oral piercings comes in different styles, including studs, barbells and rings. However, piercing your tongue, lips or cheek involves greater health risks than piercing your ears. Before having any part of your mouth pierced, you should seek advice from your dentist.
What are the possible risks involved with oral piercings?
You may not be aware of the potential side effects of oral piercings. These include:
- Infection — Our mouths contain millions of bacteria, which can lead to infection after an oral piercing. Handling jewelry once it has been placed in the mouth also increases your chances of getting an infection.
- Prolonged bleeding — If the needle punctures a blood vessel during piercing, the result can be difficult-to-control bleeding and serious blood loss.
- Pain and swelling — Pain and swelling are common symptoms of oral piercings. In extreme cases, a severely swollen tongue can actually close off the airway and restrict breathing.
- Chipped or cracked teeth — A common habit of biting or playing with the piercing can injure your gums and lead to cracked, scratched or sensitive teeth. Teeth that have restorations, such as crowns or caps, can also be damaged if the jewelry strikes them.
- Injury to the gums — Not only can metal jewelry injure soft gum tissue, it can cause the gums to recede. In addition to looking unattractive, recessed gums leave your tooth root more vulnerable to decay and periodontal disease.
- Interference with normal oral function — Jewelry in the mouth can cause excessive saliva flow that leads to drooling, impede your ability to pronounce words correctly, and cause problems with chewing and swallowing.
- Blood-borne diseases — Oral piercings have been identified by the National Institutes of Health as a possible factor in transmitting hepatitis B, C, D and G.
- Endocarditis — Oral piercing carries a risk of endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart valves or tissues. The wound created during the piercing provides an opportunity for oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream, where they can travel to the heart.
- Nerve damage — After a piercing, you may experience a numb tongue that is caused by nerve damage that is usually temporary, but can sometimes be permanent. The injured nerve may affect your sense of taste, or how you move your mouth.
When should I get help if something seems wrong?
You cab expect short-term symptoms like pain, swelling, and extra saliva. It is important to watch out for signs of infection such as:
- Lots of Bleeding
- A Bad Smell
If you experience any of these issues, see a healthcare provider. Also, get help if you just feel that something isn’t right.
What are some safety tips for getting an oral piercing?
If you’ve decided to get an oral piercing, make sure you’re up to date on vaccines for hepatitis B and tetanus. Pick a piercing shop that is reputable, clean and well managed. Look for a piercer who has a valid and up-to-date license, which indicates he or she was specially trained. The piercer should wash their hands with germ-killing soap, wear fresh disposable gloves, and use sterilized tools or ones that are thrown away after one use. You’ll want to make sure that the people who work in the shop have been vaccinated against Hepatitis B, and that the shop doesn’t use a piercing gun. You always want to make sure they are using a needle that has never been used before and that the jewelry is made of surgical steel, solid gold, or platinum.
How long do oral piercings last?
As long as your mouth stays free of infection and your oral piercings do not interfere with normal function, they can stay in your mouth indefinitely. Just be sure to see your dentist at the first sign of pain or problems, in addition to your regular checkups. Because of the risks involved even after the initial wound has healed, such as damage to the teeth or jewelry that becomes loose and could be ingested, your safest bet is to avoid oral piercings altogether.
If you have any questions about oral piercings, call Winning Smiles to schedule an appointment with your dentist – 716-332-2444.