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Are Oral Piercings Worth the Risks?

Why would dental health professionals want to weigh in on oral piercings?

There aren’t many fashion choices that impact oral health, but this one does. The unfortunate reality is that lip and tongue piercings pose serious hazards to the teeth and oral tissues. Anyone considering getting one should be aware of the risks.

The Biggest Risks With Lip and Tongue Piercings

All piercings — even the extremely common earlobe piercing — come with certain risks. They can become infected or you might discover a previously unknown allergy to the metal. These risks apply to oral piercings too, but they aren’t the only ones.

Fidgeting Can Do Permanent Damage

It’s hard enough not to fidget with a stuck piece of food between your teeth when you can’t get a toothpick or some floss, but at least poking at those with our tongues won’t result in chipped or cracked teeth, damage our fillings, or risk soft tissue injuries in the tongue, gums, or lips. Fidgeting with a piercing can easily lead to any of those outcomes, which should be a serious consideration for anyone thinking about getting a lip or tongue ring.

Risk of Nerve Damage and Gum Recession

If not properly placed, a tongue piercing can cause nerve temporary or permanent nerve damage, which could include symptoms like numbness, difficulty with speech and chewing, and can even impact the sense of taste. The gum tissue, meanwhile, can be worn away by the constant friction with a piercing, leaving the roots exposed and vulnerable to decay.

More on Piercing Infections

When you combine the normal risk of infection any piercing has with the amount and variety of bacteria that lives in the human mouth, oral piercings are much harder to keep healthy than a simple ear piercing. Symptoms of an infected piercing include pain, swelling, and inflammation, as well as chills, fever, or shaking. Good oral hygiene habits are absolutely essential for minimizing infection risk.

At Least Wait Until After Braces

The risks with piercings are serious enough that we wouldn’t recommend getting them at all, but they are an especially bad idea with braces. It’s all too easy for a piercing to get tangled in orthodontic hardware, and a serious injury around the piercing site or damage to the orthodontic appliance can happen before you know it. Orthodontic patients should definitely wait until Braces Off Day to get a piercing (though we still advise against it even then).

Piercing Care and Maintenance

It isn’t our job to forbid patients from getting oral piercings. All we can do is give you all the information you need to make an educated decision. For those who feel the risks don’t outweigh the benefits, proper piercing care is key.

  • Clean the piercing site after meals and snacks.
  • Remove all piercings during sports and other physical activities.
  • Check that the piercing is secure so it can’t become a choking hazard.
  • Go to the dentist at the first sign of infection.
  • Don’t clack the piercing against your teeth.
  • Brush twice a day and floss daily!

Our Top Priority Is Your Oral Health

We’re your partners in lifelong dental health, which is why we aren’t huge fans of oral piercings. We’re definitely huge fans of our patients, and if you need more information about how oral piercings can impact oral health, feel free to give us a call or stop by the practice to discuss it with us.

We love seeing you and your beautiful smiles!

Top image by Flickr user RenaudPhoto used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.