Facial piercings are a popular form of self-expression, and in some cases serve as a badge of bravery for facing the pain and fear of getting the piercing. Tongue and lip piercings have seen a surge in popularity in recent years, but most people don’t stop to think about how an oral piercing could affect their oral health, or consult with their dentist.

In this article, we will discuss the different types of oral piercings, how oral piercings affect oral health, additional risks associated with these piercings, and how to maintain optimal oral health.

What are the Different Types of Oral Piercings?

The most popular oral piercing is the middle of the tongue. However, the tongue can also be pierced twice, in vertical symmetrical lines, often referred to as “venom bites.” The tip of the tongue can also be pierced horizontally with a curved barbell. Other popular locations for oral piercings include both the upper and lower frenulum and a “labret” piercing (which is under the bottom lip.) Various places on the lips can also be pierced, often to mimic different types of animal bites, such as the “spider bite” and “snake bite” piercings.

How Can Oral Piercings Affect Oral Health?

While each of the above-listed piercing locations poses somewhat different oral health risks, below are some of the potential complications and health risks that everyone should be aware of before considering an oral piercing.

Oral piercings can lead to:

Infection

Abscess

Swelling

Drooling and Hypersalivation

Allergic Reaction

Nerve Damage

Difficulties with Speaking or Swallowing

Excess Bleeding

Airway obstruction

A Cleft or Bifid or Tongue

Once the initial piercing wound has healed, individuals with oral piercings still face a variety of long-term health risks, including:

Tooth Damage

Individuals with oral piercings often play with their mouth jewelry, by clicking it back and forth across the teeth, or biting down on it while chewing. This can cause chipped or cracked teeth and expose the nerves of the teeth. Fillings are also at risk of being damaged, as biting down on

the fixture can even break a filling or the tooth completely. Finally, having a solid metal object that is constantly scraping up against the enamel can cause damage to the enamel, which results in the formation of cavities and further tooth decay.

Gum Recession

When a piercing is placed too close to the gum tissue, the constant rubbing and irritation can result in gum regression. Research has shown that 44% of individuals with oral piercings develop gum regression, while only 7% of individuals without oral piercings are likely to have receding gums. Sometimes, a gum graft is required in order to save the tooth. When left untreated, gum recession can become so severe that tooth loss occurs.

Gum Disease

In addition to generalized gingivitis, individuals with oral piercings have a greater possibility of developing gum disease. Oral piercings can cause chronic inflammation, which is the cornerstone of a variety of severe autoimmune diseases. A condition such as gingivitis can have profound implications later on when left untreated. Preventing or reversing gum disease is not only for our oral health, but for general health, wellness, and longevity.

Shifted Teeth

When there is constant pressure on the teeth from a piercing (or by constantly playing with the jewelry) the teeth can shift from their natural position. The most commonly seen form occurs in the development of a midline gap between the two front top or bottom incisors. This often requires expensive and significant orthodontic treatment to eliminate.

How to Prevent Oral Health Issues

Individuals with oral piercings should be fully aware of the health risks involved. Many will still wish to keep their piercings and can take several steps to potentially avoid some of the negative implications. These tips include:

Keeping the Piercing Site as Clean as Possible

Rinsing the Mouth with Water After Every Meal

Avoid Playing with the Jewelry

Avoid Contact with the Jewelry and Teeth

Remove the Jewelry When Playing Sports

Check the Tightness of the Jewelry to Avoid Breakage of Swallowing

In addition to the above-listed tips, the most important thing is to practice an effective oral health routine every day. This should include brushing twice daily, flossing once per day, and seeing your dentist regularly for routine checkups and cleanings. Contact our Guelph dentist’s office today to book your appointment!

A note to dental professionals: Educating your patients on the potential health risks involved with piercings may help stem those risks. Dental professionals can help by making their patients and communities aware of these dangers.