Oral Piercing

Massachusetts Dental Society

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Southborough, MA 01745

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All That Glitters . . . Is Not Golden to Your Oral Health

In this day and age, the sight of an earring stud or hoop protruding out of someone's tongue or lip is not an unusual spectacle. Today, body piercing seems to be commonplace—like wearing a ring or necklace. Some see it as art, others see it as self-expression. Yet in the dental community, oral piercing, which involves the tongue, lips, or cheeks, has been implicated in a number of harmful dental conditions and could be a potential risk to your health.

 

The Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS) feels it's particularly important to educate the public on the dangers of these piercings. Because of its potential for numerous harmful consequences, the MDS opposes the practice of oral piercing.

 

In tongue piercing, a barbell-shaped piece of jewelry is placed through the thickness of the tongue with a needle. The end of the jewelry is then placed through the hole and a backing is screwed on. In lip or cheek piercing, a cork is positioned inside the mouth to support the tissue as it is pierced with a needle. The needle is inserted through the tissue and into the cork backing. The needle is then replaced with jewelry and a backing is screwed into place.

 

Individuals usually undergo these piercings without anesthesia. Even without complications, many people experience pain, swelling, infection, gum injury, and increased salivary flow after piercing; healing typically takes four to six weeks but can sometimes take months. However, if placement of the jewelry is done incorrectly, nerve and blood vessel damage can occur.

 

More serious side effects have been reported, including airway obstruction from swallowing jewelry, prolonged bleeding, scar tissue formation, and speech impediment. The National Institutes of Health has even linked hepatitis to oral piercing.

 

According to MDS, the damage to someone's mouth and overall health has the potential to be very serious. It's important to make sure individuals are well informed on how dangerous this trend can be.