I once had a patient who had 27 piercings on her face/head and multiple (couldn’t count them all) tattoos. Naturally, I thought she would be a breeze to work with. Ummm…No. She was afraid of needles. (WHAT?????)
Oral piercings (lips, cheeks, tongue) are on the rise, and unlike the cartilage of the ears, piercing the soft tissues of the mouth and face can pose serious oral and general health risks. Knowing the risks before you decide to pierce will help you avoid some of the pitfalls.
Risks Associated with Oral Piercings
- Infections: The mouth is full of bacteria so any wound is susceptible to infection.
- Broken and chipped teeth: The metal from bars in the tongue or lips can break teeth. Some people have a hard time not “playing” with their jewelry (clicking it against their teeth) which increases this risk.
- Injury to gum tissues: Trauma from the metal jewelry causes gum recession that compromises the integrity of the tooth supporting structures. Severe recession requires surgical grafting.
- Nerve damage: The face and mouth contain multiple nerves. Piercing through one of these nerves can cause temporary or permanent numbness.
- Disease transmission: Blood borne diseases such as Hepatitis can be transmitted from unsterile piercing practices.
- Jewelry aspiration: Loose attachments can be inhaled or ingested – causing potential damage to lungs and intestines.
- Allergic reaction: People can develop sensitivity to metals and can have a reaction.
If you have, or are considering a piercing:
- Seek a reputable piercer who uses sterile equipment and practices sterile technique.
- Brush and floss daily to keep plaque (bacteria) levels as low as possible.
- See your dentist regularly to assess current or potential oral damage.
- Wash hands before handling jewelry.
- Make sure jewelry is tight and secure.
- Avoid “playing” with the jewelry (i.e. clicking it against the teeth, twirling with fingers or tongue). This reduces risk of infection from dirty hands, possible loosening of the jewelry attachment, and reduction of injury to teeth and gum tissues.
- Consider non-metal jewelry if possible.
- Remove jewelry before sports and activities.
Oral piercings make regular dental checkups all the more important. Schedule your appointment today at the office of Dr. James J. Kalina in Mankato. We will be happy to see to all your needs and the needs of your family members.