Recently, I’ve seen a number of patients with oral piercings. Makes me wonder if this trend is coming back. Hopefully it isn’t because there are some serious risks involved with oral piercings:
Risks related to the procedure itself. These are serious but rare:
- Infection: your tongue is full of bacteria and, when you get the piercing, you are introducing that bacteria into the bloodstream. In rare cases, this has caused very serious infections of the heart. There are also case reports of tetanus infection from oral piercings.
- Bleeding: hopefully you’ve never seen someone cut their tongue seriously because it bleeds A LOT. Piercings can sometimes result in serious bleeding complications.
Complications related to the jewelry. Thesecomplications are very common and I see one or more of these in almost every mouth with a piercing:
- Infection: piercings can be tough to clean and thus are more likely to be a place where bacteria hang out, proliferate, and cause infection.
- Gum recession: repeated contact with the gums touching the piercing will often result in gum recession, which can expose the roots of the teeth. Root exposure can cause severe sensitivity to cold, it can also increase the risk of cavities.
- Tooth damage: it is common to see chipped and worn teeth around oral piercings
- Interference with oral health: sometimes oral piercings can interfere with a dental professional’s ability to diagnose cavities, gum disease, or other oral health problems. Most commonly, this is because the piercing cannot be easily removed and they obscure the reading of routine x-rays.
As a dental professional, I do NOT endorse any oral piercings, oral tattoos (yes, they exist), or tongue splitting (see below):