Can Oral Piercings Affect Your Teeth? Oral piercings can affect your teen’s oral health and present a real danger to the teeth, as well as overall health if infection occurs. The popularity of oral piercings as a fashion trend has increased in recent years, and according to the American Dental Association (ADA), adolescents and young adults are typically the recipients. Oral piercings can be intraoral (both ends of the jewelry worn are inside the oral cavity) or perioral (one end is inside the oral cavity and one is outside).
Common locations of oral piercings include:
- Tongue (most common)
How do Oral Piercings Affect Your Teeth?
Because the mouth is rich with millions of bacteria, infection is the most common side effect from oral piercings. An oral infection can result in pain and swelling, even to the point of making breathing difficult. An oral infection can quickly turn life-threatening if left untreated. For those with certain medical conditions, such as hemophilia, diabetes, heart conditions, or autoimmune disorders, additional medical risks are involved.
Improperly sterilized piercing equipment can also be a contributor to infections, such as tetanus and hepatitis. Anyone considering an oral piercing should be up-to-date on immunizations prior to the procedure to reduce the risk of contracting these blood-borne infections.
Oral piercings may also cause problems with speaking, chewing, and swallowing, as well as be a choking hazard if the jewelry becomes loose and falls into the airway, especially while sleeping.
Other possible complications of oral piercings include:
Dental trauma: Jewelry placed inside the mouth can regularly bump against the teeth or be bitten down upon which can cause chipping or fracturing of the teeth. Studies have shown that over 25% of young people with lip piercings and almost 50% of those with tongue piercings have suffered from some type of permanent tooth damage. Oral piercings can also result in damage to the enamel, fillings, and orthodontic appliances (braces and retainers).
Gingival (gum) recession: As metal makes contact with the gums, recession can occur which can lead to painful nerve exposure, tooth sensitivity, and decay. Research has found that up to 50% of lip piercing recipients and 44% of those with pierced tongues experienced gum disease and/or recession.
Allergic reactions: Nickel is a common allergen which can be contained in jewelry. Other metal allergies pose a risk as well, especially with poor quality jewelry.
Increased risk of sports injury: For adolescents and teens that play sports, an oral piercing can pose additional risks if the participant is hit in the face.
Nerve damage: Nerves that run through the face and tongue can be damaged (sometimes permanently) during piercing. This can result in numbness and difficulty moving the damaged area of the face or mouth.
Excessive bleeding: The tongue contains many blood vessels, so piercing it can result in losing large amounts of blood. Scar tissue (keloid formation) can also be a problem after piercing.
Embedded oral jewelry: Surgical removal can be required if jewelry becomes embedded in the oral cavity.
Hypersalivation: Saliva production can increase after an oral piercing (especially tongue piercing) and can result in drooling. The saliva ducts can also be damaged during cheek piercing, requiring cauterization.
Tips for Teens with Oral Piercings
If your teen already has an oral piercing, keeping the area clean and free from food debris is imperative to maintaining good oral health. Daily care is a must. For recent piercings, be sure to rinse the pierced area for 3-4 weeks with warm salt water or an alcohol-free, antibacterial mouthwash after eating and before bed. After healing, you should continue to rinse your mouth after meals to avoid bacterial build-up.
Other helpful hints for teens with oral piercings:
- Avoid touching the pierced area. When removing the jewelry or checking that it’s secure, always use clean hands.
- Remove jewelry when participating in sports or other recreational activities that may involve physical contact. Removing jewelry during sleep is also advised.
- Maintain good oral hygiene, including visiting your dentist regularly (every 6 months).
- Do not click the jewelry against the teeth. Be aware of how the jewelry moves when eating or talking.
- Choose high-quality jewelry, and be sure it is the recommended type for the area that is pierced.
While the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the ADA both advise against oral piercings as “invasive procedures with negative health sequelae that outweigh any potential benefits,” if your child does have an oral piercing or has questions about oral piercing, Kids Dental is here to help. Our priority is to provide the highest quality, compassionate, kid-friendly service to help our patients achieve and maintain excellent oral health that will last a lifetime.