Are oral piercings of the tongue, cheek, and lips safe? Are you or someone in your household considering having any of these areas pierced? We would encourage you to exercise caution and weigh the risks. Consider the following excerpt from WedMD (http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/oral-piercing) on the risk factors associated with oral piercings of the tongue, cheek and lips:
“• Infections. The wound created by piercing, the vast amount of bacteria in the mouth, and the introduction of additional bacteria from handling the jewelry all work to increase the risk of infections.
• Transmission of diseases. Oral piercing is a potential risk factor for the transmission of herpes simplex virus and hepatitis B and C.
• Endocarditis. Because of the wound created by the piercing, there’s a chance that bacteria could enter the bloodstream and lead to the development of endocarditis — an inflammation of the heart or its valves — in certain people with underlying (and often undiagnosed and without symptoms) heart problems.
• Nerve damage/prolonged bleeding. Numbness or loss of sensation at the site of the piercing or movement problems (for pierced tongues) can occur if nerves have been damaged. If blood vessels are punctured, prolonged bleeding can occur. Tongue swelling following piercing can be severe enough to block the airway and make breathing difficult.
• Gum disease. People with oral piercings — especially long-stem tongue jewelry (barbells) — have a greater risk of gum disease than those without oral piercings. The jewelry can come into contact with gum tissue causing injury as well as a recession of the gum tissue, which can lead to loose teeth and tooth loss.
• Damage to teeth. Teeth that come into contact with mouth jewelry can chip or crack. One study in a dental journal reported that 47% of people wearing barbell tongue jewelry for 4 or more years had at least one chipped tooth.
• Difficulties in daily oral functions. Tongue piercing can result in difficulty chewing and swallowing food and speaking clearly. This is because the jewelry stimulates an excessive production of saliva. Temporary or permanent drooling is another consequence of increased saliva production. Taste can also be altered.
• Allergic reaction to metal. A hypersensitivity reaction — called allergic contact dermatitis — to the metal in the jewelry can occur in susceptible people.
• Jewelry aspiration. Jewelry that becomes loose in the mouth can become a choking hazard and, if swallowed, can result in injury to the digestive track or lungs.”
If you still wish to proceed with an oral piercing after weighing the risks, carefully and meticulously choose a piercing parlor. Request to see health certifications and ask questions about sterilization techniques surrounding equipment and tools, and regularly follow up with your medical provider and dentist to monitor your oral health.
Wendel Family Dental Centre