Body piercing is a popular form of self expression. Some people pierce their tongue, lips, or areas around and in their mouth. Sometimes, these piercings come with a price. Know the hazards of oral piercings before you commit to it.
Piercing your tongue, cheek, lip, or uvula (the small flap of tissue that hangs down in the back of your throat) can interfere with speech, chewing, and/or swallowing. There are also other risks, such as:
- Infection, prolonged bleeding, and tongue swelling. The wound created by piercing, along with the large amount of bacteria in the mouth, can lead to infection. Handling a piece of jewelry when putting it in the mouth can also lead to infection when other bacteria is introduced by the hands or jewelry. Prolonged bleeding may occur if blood vessels have been pierced.
- Hypersensitivity to metals. An allergic reaction to the metal is possible in susceptible people.
- Nerve damage. If nerves have been damaged during piercing, loss of sensation at or around the site may occur.
- Tongue piercing may increase saliva flow.
- Disease transmission. Oral piercings are a potential risk factor for the transmission of herpes virus and hepatitis B and C.
- A risk factor for people with an underlying heart murmur, is an inflammation of the heart valve that can occur when bacteria is introduced into the bloodstream.
- Gum disease. Oral piercings increase the chance of gum disease when contacting the gum tissue and causes damage.
- Tooth Damage. Teeth that come into contact with the oral piercing can become chipped or broken.
- Oral function difficulties. Oral piercings can make it difficult to speak clearly, eat, or taste properly.
- Jewelry aspiration. Oral piercings can be swallowed, causing injury to the lungs and/or digestive tract.
Caring for Oral Piercings
A tongue piercing can take up to 6 weeks to heal; pierced lips up to 2 months. Be meticulous with the care of the piercing. Here are some suggestions:
- Watch the foods you eat. Spicy foods, sticky foods, and alcohol should be avoided.
- Do not use any tobacco products.
- Brush after each meal.
- Use an antibacterial mouth rinse.
- Rinse your mouth frequently with salt water.
Warning Signs after an Oral Piercing
Contact a health care professional immediately if you experience any of these signs:
- An abscess on the piercing site.
- Bleeding or tearing at the site.
- Increases pain or redness , tenderness or swelling.
- Scarring or thickening at the site.
- Yellow or greenish discharge from the site.
- A persistent, low-grade fever in the days following the piercing.
Last but not least, as with any surgical procedure you might have, look into the studio where the piercing would take place. Is it clean? Do they sterilize the instruments they use to pierce and piece of jewelry you will be wearing in a hospital-grade autoclave? Are their instruments in a sterilized bag? Does the technician wear gloves? Do they carry a health certificate? Are staff members vaccinated against Hepatitis B? These are all important questions, and getting an oral piercing is a decision that comes with consequences. It’s good to be informed before you go. You are welcome to contact our Metro Detroit office in Rochester Hills for an exam or questions for Dr. Vo regarding your dental and oral health!