Oral Piercings and your teeth
Increasingly people are piercing different parts of their bodies. One place that is popular is the mouth. Piercings can be on tongues, lips and cheeks.
While it is your decision about getting piercings, it is important to be fully informed about the pros and cons.
Your mouth contains millions of bacteria which can cause infections, such as hepatitis or endocarditis, or swelling around mouth piercings. Your teeth are also in danger of cracking if you bite down on the piercing. Repeated clicking of the jewellery against your teeth can cause damage too.
- Infection, pain and swelling. Your mouth is a moist environment, home to huge amounts of breeding bacteria, and an ideal place for infection. An infection can quickly become life threatening if not treated promptly. It’s also possible for a piercing to cause your tongue to swell, potentially blocking your airway.
- Damage to gums, teeth and fillings. A common habit of biting or playing with the piercing can injure your gums and lead to cracked, scratched or sensitive teeth. Jewellery can also damage fillings.
- Hypersensitivity to metals. Allergic reactions at the pierced site are also possible.
- 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. Damage to your tongue’s blood vessels can cause serious blood loss.
- Excessive drooling. Your tongue piercing can increase saliva production.
- Interference with speech, chewing and swallowing
- Dental appointment difficulties. The jewellery can get in the way of dental care by blocking X-rays.
Already have a piercing?
- Contact your dentist or GP immediately if you have any signs of infection—swelling, pain, fever, chills, shaking or a red-streaked appearance around the site of the piercing.
- Keep the piercing site clean and free of any matter that may collect on the jewellery by rinsing your mouth after every meal.
- Try to avoid clicking the jewellery against teeth and avoid stress on the piercing. Be gentle and aware of the jewellery’s movement when talking and chewing.
- Check the tightness of your jewellery periodically (with clean hands). This can help prevent you from swallowing or choking if the jewellery becomes dislodged.
- When taking part in sports, remove the jewellery and protect your mouth with a mouth guard.
- See your dentist regularly, and remember to brush twice a day and floss daily.
While not as popular tongue splitting is another procedure that some people choose to have. This does not introduce a foreign object into your mouth so many of the risks outlined above are not relevant. What does remain important is the need to maintain a vigilant eye on any signs of infection and to seek treatment immediately if you are concerned.