Thinking of getting a mouth piercing? Here’s what you should know
Mouth piercings, especially lip piercings, have been a common practice in many parts of the world. Various cultures associate lip piercings with rites of passage, initiation and religious significance. Today, it is a common practice of self-expression among youth everywhere in the world.
The lips and tongue are the most common sites for mouth piercings, even tattoos. However, tongue splitting and piercing of the cheeks, uvula and frenum are also seen. Lip piercings are the least painful compared to other body piercings. Piercings in the mouth are associated with different risk factors compared to body piercings.
If you’re thinking of getting a mouth piercing, here are some important factors to consider as it relates to your oral health and overall health:
- Any mouth piercing is a potential source of localized infection. Oral infections and swelling can often occur due to the introduction of bacteria into the mouth during the procedure. Swelling of the tongue can affect speech and chewing. Tenderness due to enlarged lymph nodes below the tongue can also result.
- Risk of serious systemic (body) infections and disease transmission such as:
- Endocarditis (in people with heart problems)
- Bacteremia, an infection in the blood
- Hepatitis B,C,D
- Herpes Simplex Virus
Any symptoms such as fever, chills or redness at the piercing site should be reported to a health care provider.
- Obstruction of the airway. Swelling of the tissues of the mouth, especially the tongue as a result of infection can compromise the airway. As well, loose jewelry can often be swallowed and pose a choking hazard.
- Nerve damage. The tongue is highly innovated by nerves. Tongue piercings can permanently damage these nerves that allow the tongue to feel sensations and damage taste buds.
- Mouth piercings can interfere with speech, chewing and swallowing.
- Increase saliva production and drooling due to the presence of a foreign object in the mouth.
- Damage to teeth, fillings and gums and surrounding tissues. The clicking of the jewelry against the teeth can often chip teeth and fracture fillings, leading to invasive and expensive dental work. Tapping jewelry against teeth can also cause tiny hair line fractures in the enamel. Gum recession, trauma and swelling are often noted near piercing sites in the mouth due to the tendency to play with the jewelry against the gums. Injury to the gums and other oral tissues is also seen from the jewelry becoming embedded in the surrounding tissues.
- Risk of scar tissue formation and keloids at the piercing site. Keloids continue to grow over time and are unlike scar tissue.
- Oral piercings interfere with dental x-rays. All mouth jewelry should be removed when taking dental x-rays. If the piercingis left in the mouth it may interfere with the proper diagnosis of teeth on the x-rays.
- Quality of jewelry. All jewelry used for piercings in the mouth should be made of inert nontoxic metal such as 14k or 18k gold, surgical stainless steel, titanium or niobium. Silver plated or custom made jewelry is contraindicated because of the increase risk of infection and allergic response.
Oral hygiene care is absolutely imperative with oral piercings, especially in the initial four-to-six week healing period following the piercing. In addition to proper tooth brushing, using an antibacterial mouthwash without alcohol is highly recommended. Maintaining good basic hygiene practices like hand washing before handling mouth jewelry, and changing your toothbrush frequently (about every 3 months) are all good practices. Lastly, to reduce the risk of infection, avoid kissing and any other oral contact for at least four weeks after the piercing.
Oral Piercings: a Risk Worth Taking?
Thinking of getting a mouth piercing? Take your time to seriously consider what you want. Mouth piercings are a long term responsibility and require meticulous care. If you’re considering a mouth piercing, talking to your dental hygienist beforehand is a great way to ensure that you’ll be making the right decision. Dental hygienists help educate and bring awareness to the risks and possible consequences related to mouth piercings.
Or, you can visit Pina Mazza at Maple Dental Hygiene Care for all your dental hygiene care concerns regarding oral piercings and oral health! Pina would love to see you.