Team photograph of Dr Axelrad & staff

Oral Piercings and Dentistry

Posted on by Dr. Robert Axelrad (Brampton Dentist)

Tongue Piercing

Tongue Piercing

Have you ever heard the expression ‘there’s a price to pay for that? ‘ With regards to Oral Piercings, this especially holds true.  Read on…

The risks of oral piercings (lips, cheek and especially the tongue include):
1. Chipping/cracking of teeth: It’s been reported that almost 50 % of people who have had a ‘barbell‘ for four or more years, have had at least one chipped tooth.
2. Damage to the gums: Depending on the location of the piercing, it is possible to have recession of the gums. The blog “Causes of Gum Recession,” will refresh your memory of this topic. Recession may result in loose teeth and subsequent tooth loss. In addition, the exposed root surfaces seen with recession are much more susceptible to decay.
3. Infections: Bacteria from the mouth can enter the wound where the piercing was made. In addition, bacteria from the person placing the jewellery can enter the wound as well.
4. Nerve damage: The main nerve that supplies the tongue is called the Lingual Nerve. Damage to this nerve can lead to a loss of sensation in the tongue. Taste and movement of the tongue can also be altered if there is any nerve damage. If a nerve is irritated or damaged, this can result in a sharp/shooting pain that follows the path of the nerve…this is known as a Neuralgia.
5. Difficulty speaking properly, swallowing and chewing.
6. An increase probability of drooling due to an increase in saliva production…this can be temporary or permanent.
7. The possibility of tongue swelling. This can result in blocked airways and make it difficult for the individual to breathe.
8. Can accidentally pierce a blood vessel or artery which may result in an increase in bleeding.
9. Non-sterile equipment can result in getting HIV, Hepatitis B/C or Herpes Simplex.

Try to address the following when at the piercing store:
Does the piercing store look clean? Do they have proper autoclaves for sterilization? Does the staff wear gloves? Does the studio have health certificates? Are there sterilization pouches for the studs, posts, barbells, etc.? Were the staff member vaccinated against Hep B?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
10. Possibility of swallowing loose jewellery. This can result in internal injuries to the digestive track or lungs and also possibly a choking hazard.
11. If a patient has an undiagnosed heart condition, then bacteria can enter the blood stream through the flesh wound (where the piercing was done) and set up an endocarditis (inflammation relating to the heart).
12. You may experience hypersensitivity or a metal allergy. This is called a Dermatitis.
13. The piercing may get in the way of obtaining a proper view while taking an x ray.

Post-Care after a piercing:
a) Right after the piercing, consume or apply cold to decrease the risk of swelling. In addition, try to sleep with your head up right; this may also help to decrease swelling.
b) Rinse your mouth with anti-bacterial mouthwash, especially after eating (we suggest a non-alcohol based mouth rinse).
c) Until healed, avoid smoking, alcohol and spicy foods.
d) Don’t touch the area with your hands unless they’re clean; if you really need to touch it at all.

Signs of Infection:
If after several days there is pain, redness, swelling along with bleeding and pus, then these are sure signs of an infection. This should be addressed by the person who did the actual piercing and a medical doctor as well.
As you can see, an oral piercing seems like quite an innocent undertaking, but from the list of possible complications listed above, it is not. You have to ask yourself…is it worth it?

Yours in good dental health,
Dr. Robert Axelrad, Brampton Dentist

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