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Oral Piercings

Oral piercings may look cool but they may cause a lot of damage to your mouth. Problems can start immediately after getting an oral piercing. You may experience pain, swelling and infection. Scar tissue can also form. There’s also a risk of secondary infections, especially ones involving the tongue. Sometimes surgery is needed to repair the damage.

What is an oral piercing?

Oral piercings usually consist of a barbell through the tongue or labret (the space between the lower lip and chin). Other common oral piercing locations include the lips, uvula and cheeks. The jewelry comes in different styles, including labret studs, barbells and rings. They can be made of stainless steel, gold, titanium, plastic or nickel.

What problems can an oral piercing cause?

It depends on the location of the piercing. If it’s through the tongue or lip, or below the tongue, there’s a risk of teeth chipping from the stud at the end of the barbell. This can happen if you don’t shorten the bar after the initial swelling goes down.

Piercings through the floor of the mouth below the tongue or through the tongue have the highest risk of developing into a serious infection. In some cases, it can be life-threatening. There is also a risk of nerve or muscle damage from the piercing. Certain labret piercings can damage gum tissue.

The jewelry can cause gums to recede and leave the tooth root more vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease. Bad breath, drooling and problems with chewing and swallowing can also develop.

How can I lower the risks?

If you’re thinking about getting a piercing either close to or within the mouth, talk to your dentist first. And keep these safety measures in mind:

  • Check out the cleanliness of the place doing the piercing. Do they have an infection-control policy posted? How do they sterilize their equipment?

  • Ensure that the person performing the piercing is experienced and uses strict infection-control practices to avoid serious infections such as hepatitis B and C, and HIV. For example, do they use new needles and gloves for each customer?

  • Plastic jewelry is less damaging than metal, and nickel may cause allergic reactions and cause piercings to migrate.

  • Ask for detailed after-care instructions.

  • Disinfect your jewelry regularly and brush the jewelry the same as you would your teeth.

  • If piercings are close to the teeth, make sure the ends, or even the entire stud, are made of plastic.

  • Try to avoid piercing the tongue or the floor of the mouth because of the higher risk of infection.

  • Get immediate medical or dental attention if you experience too much bleeding, swelling or pain after a piercing, or if there is any evidence of infection (a bad odour or fluid coming from the piercing, for example).

  • Visit your dental professional regularly so they can closely monitor the piercing and any potential damage to teeth and gums.

  • Check on the tightness of your jewelry periodically (with clean hands). This can prevent swallowing or choking if the jewelry becomes dislodged.

  • Don’t play with and manipulate jewelry once it’s been placed in your mouth. This increases your chances of getting an infection.

Braganza Periodontics – Peterborough Implant and Gum Specialist 705-741-1885


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