The oral cavity is an amazing, complex and important part of the body: it helps you smile (remember the first smile of a baby!), speak, and taste. It acts as a defense against environmental attacks. It also often gives the first warning sign of an underlying medical problem.
The oral cavity is composed of many different types of tissue. The teeth are the most inorganic material of our body. The mucosa (a mucous membrane) and gingiva (gums) which cover the jaw bones, the inner cheeks and lips, the palate and the floor of the mouth as well as the tongue muscle, are all delicate tissues that need protection. They have no or very little keratin (hard, insoluble material sometimes used to coat pills).
Piercings have become a fad among adolescents. Hard objects of many shapes and sizes are introduced into the mouth and are usually attached to the tongue and lip. These objects are constantly in contact with and attacking the teeth and the surrounding soft tissue.
The results are predictable: the lower incisors (the four front teeth, two on each side in each jaw, the “cutting” teeth) on the pierced side become denuded (to become bare) because the gingival (gums) recedes under the impact of the rubbing. The recession becomes irreversible in time. The teeth become eroded (worn away), and underlying dentin (hard part of the tooth) becomes exposed, resulting in the tooth becoming susceptible to the invasion of oral bacteria and caries (the molecular decay or death of a bone which leads to cavity formation).
We have persuaded a few patients to have piercings removed meanwhile others have refused. We hope that this fad will end soon.
Reviewed by Trauma specialists at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
Last updated: June 2012