Oral Piercings: Do They Pose Health Risks?

Today, piercing is a hot fashion trend. Oral piercings may be attractive to some, but may not leave you smiling for long.

Body piercing is exactly that—a piercing or puncture made in your body by a needle. After that, a piece of jewelry is inserted into the puncture. Oral piercings can cause a wide array of complications:

Infections. The puncture wound created by piercing, the large amount of bacteria in the mouth, coupled with bacteria from handling the jewelry, all work to increase the risk of infections like tetanus.

Disease transmission. Oral piercing is a potential risk factor for the transmission of diseases such as hepatitis B and C as well as herpes simplex virus.

Prolonged bleeding/ nerve damage. Numbness or loss of sensation at the piercing site can occur if nerves have been damaged. Movement problems can occur for pierced tongues. If blood vessels are punctured, prolonged bleeding can occur. Swelling of the tongue following piercing can be severe enough to block the airway and make breathing difficult.

Periodontitis. People with oral piercings have a greater risk of gum disease. The jewelry, especially long-stem barbells, can come into contact with gum tissue causing injury as well as recession of the gum tissue. This can lead to loose teeth and even tooth loss.

Tooth damage. Teeth that come into contact with mouth jewelry can chip or crack. One dental journal study reported that 47% of people wearing barbell tongue jewelry, for four years or more, had at least one chipped tooth.

Difficulty in oral functions. Jewelry stimulates an excessive production of saliva. This can cause not only temporary or permanent drooling, but also difficulty in chewing and swallowing food. Taste can also be altered.

Allergic reaction. Allergic contact dermatitis, a hypersensitivity reaction to the metal in the jewelry can occur.

Endocarditis. Endocarditis is an inflammation of the heart or its valves. There is a chance that bacteria from the wound created by the piercing could enter the bloodstream and lead to the development of endocarditis in certain people with underlying and often undiagnosed heart problems.

Jewelry aspiration. Jewelry that becomes loose in the mouth can become a choking hazard and, if swallowed, can result in injury to the digestive track or lungs.

If you decide to go through with the oral piercing procedure despite these risks, do your research first. If you’re under 18, some places won’t allow you to get a piercing without a parent’s consent. Don’t pierce yourself or have a friend do it, make sure it’s done by a professional in a safe and clean environment.
  • Ask friends who have had their tongue, lips, or cheeks pierced to recommend the name of the studio they visited. Make sure your friend suffered no ill consequences of their piercing.
  • Visit the studio. Make sure the studio has a clean appearance, especially the area where the piercing is done. Ask if they use hospital-grade autoclaves for sterilization or use disposable instruments. Also make sure the staff uses disposable gloves.
  • Ask to see the piercer and studio’s health certificates.
  • Find out if all the needles, as well as the studs, hoops, and barbells are kept in sterilized packaging.
  • Make sure all staff members involved in the piercings have been vaccinated against hepatitis B.
  • Before you get a piercing, make sure you know if you’re allergic to any metals. Only nontoxic metals should be used for body piercings, such as surgical steel, solid 14 or 18 karat gold, niobium, titanium, or platinum.
If you think the studio isn’t clean enough, if all your questions aren’t answered, or if you feel uncomfortable in any way, go somewhere else to get your piercing.

If all goes well, you should be fine after a body piercing except for some temporary symptoms including some pain, swelling at the pierced area, and in the case of tongue piercing, increased saliva. However, take into consideration that a pierced tongue can take four to six weeks to heal and pierced lips take between one and two months to heal. During this healing time, you will need to care for your oral piercing.

Here are some things you should do:

  • Brush after every meal and rinse with a disinfectant mouthwash, such as Biotene, Oral B, Rembrandt, or Tech 2000. If you use Listerine, dilute to a quarter of the usual strength. Do not use mouthwashes or toothpastes containing peroxide.
  • Rinse your mouth frequently with warm salt water. Use sea salt, not iodized table salt.
  • Eat soft foods. Avoid spicy, hard and sticky foods.
  • Take vitamin C and zinc to promote wound healing.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco-based products.
  • Try sucking antibacterial/anti-inflammatory throat lozenges such as Difflam to reduce the swelling.
  • Both bacterial and viral infections can penetrate a healing piercing. While healing, avoid putting anything dirty in your mouth; coins, pens, other people’s tongues. Refrain from kissing and oral sex.
If your piercing doesn’t heal correctly or you notice any of the following warning signs, contact a health care professional right away:
  • Increased redness, pain and tenderness, or swelling at the piercing site.
  • Yellow or green discharge from the piercing site.
  • Scarring or thickened tissue that builds up and darkens around the site.
  • A pimple-like abscess on the site.
  • A low-grade fever that is persistent in the days following piercing.
  • Bleeding or tearing after the initial healing of the piercing.
After you’ve considered all options, one last thing to consider is that the jewelry may migrate out of your flesh; in the event that your jewelry stays in place, your flesh is going to heal around the jewelry leaving a permanent hole in your flesh for the rest of your life.

Source: Health news.com