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Oral Piercing and Health

lip piercingPiercing the tongue, lip or cheeks has become a popular form of self-expression. People interested in this trend should be aware that it is not without health risks.

Risks Associated with the Procedure

  • Infection – When the skin is penetrated for surgical or cosmetic procedures there is always a risk of infection developing, and the potential for infection is higher especially for treatment involving the oral tissues because the mouth is full of bacteria.
  • Bleeding – Any procedure that involves piercing the oral tissues may result in prolonged bleeding due the constant wet environment, which drastically slows the clotting process.
  • Swelling – The risk of swelling and delayed healing is especially high for tongue piercing because the tongue is constantly in motion. Since the tongue can swell significantly, there is a risk of airway blockage.
  • Nerve Damage – The tongue is filled with nerves that control movement (for speech and chewing) and taste. A piercing can damage these nerves permanently
  • Blood-borne disease transmission – It is no surprise that the process of getting a piercing always carries the risk of being exposed to bacteria, such as those that cause tetanus infections, or viruses, such as those responsible for Hepatitis B, C and D.
  • Endocarditis – The wound created during a piercing provides the opportunity for oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream, where they can easily travel to the heart. For people who have specific heart conditions, the bacteria can potentially cause inflammation and infection of the heart valves or tissues.


Complications Associated with the Jewelry

  • Gum and Bone Loss – The risk of gum and bone loss around teeth is a significant concern for those with lip piercings. The fasteners used to hold a piercing in place continually rub and irritate the gums and bone, which always result in a localized thinning of these tissues. With extensive bone loss there is also the potential for tooth loss.
  • Tooth Fracture – The risk of fracturing a tooth is always a concern for those with tongue piercings. Accidentally biting down onto the stud can result in chipping or severe fractures of tooth structure, and in some cases the tooth cannot be restored with a filling and would then require extraction and replacement.
  • Interference with normal oral function – Oral jewellery can stimulate excessive saliva production, can interfere with the ability to pronounce words clearly, and may cause problems with chewing and swallowing food.
  • Interference with oral health evaluation – Jewellery in the mouth can block the transmission of x-ray radiographs. Clear and unobstructed radiographs are essential to a complete oral health evaluation. Jewellery may prevent the x-ray from revealing conditions like cysts, abscesses or tumours.
  • Aspiration and Ingestion – There is always the possibility that the fasteners can loosen and become undone. These components are a choking hazard if it obstructs the airway, and they can lead to injury if they are aspirated into the lungs or ingested into the digestive tract.