Oral Piercings and how they affect your oral health

Oral piercings may look cool as a form of self-expression, but they can become dangerous for your oral health. The tongue is a moist environment where millions of bacteria are present. Poor handling of the piercing site can lead to infections.

Risks involved with oral piercings

Here are some of the several oral health risks involved with oral piercings.

●  Infections. Plastic balls cannot be sterilized. Over time, bacteria can grow inside the plastic and cause infection. Proper handling and changing of the plastic balls at least once per year are crucial.

●  Damaged nerves. Your tongue may feel numb after getting an oral piercing. It should be temporary but can be permanent sometimes. Injured nerves can affect mouth movement and your sense of taste.

●  Damaged vessels.  Blood vessels may be punctured during the process and cause excessive bleeding.

●  Chipped or cracked tooth. Biting down on or clicking the jewelry can cause your tooth to crack or chip. Fillings or dental work, such as crowns, can also get damaged. Plastic balls are softer than metal and are less likely to damage teeth. However, they will harbor bacteria eventually.

●  Damaged gums. Piercings can also lead to gum recession and may make you more vulnerable to tooth decay and gum diseases.

●  Allergies. If you’re using metal balls, the site can also develop allergic reactions.

●  Excessive drooling. When you have oral piercings, you may also experience excessive saliva flow.

●  Speaking and swallowing difficulties. Oral piercings may also interfere with speaking and chewing.

●  Choking. The jewelry can break off at any time. You could swallow it and cause choking or it could be inhaled into the lungs.

●  Pain and discomfort. The tongue can swell due to infections and cause pain and discomfort.

●  Endocarditis. Bacteria from an infected oral piercing can reach the bloodstream, find their way to the heart, and result in inflammation.

●  May interfere with diagnostic procedures. You need to remove the jewelry before getting diagnostic procedures, such as x-ray and ultrasound. Otherwise, the results may be distorted.

 Oral piercings and narrowed airways

The normal airway is approximately the size of a garden hose. Some people tend to expand their oral piercing once the site heals and put on a larger accessory. Doing so can compress the airway to the size of a small straw.

Swelling of the tongue due to bacterial infection can also block the airway and cause breathing problems. If the airway is obstructed, you may experience shortness of breath and increase your risk of developing health issues, such as sleep apnea.

What to do if you already have oral piercings

The best thing to do is not to get your tongue pierced or to remove the accessory if you already have it.

Dental professionals don’t recommend getting oral piercings. But if you decide to do it, go to a professional piercer. See what options they have for the jewelry and seek aftercare instructions.

Be fully aware of the impact getting oral piercings has on your oral health.  No material is ‘safer’ or ‘better’. Dental problems can occur regardless of the type of material used.

Plastic balls may be less likely to cause damage to the teeth, but they attract bacterial growth over time. Metal balls, on the other hand, are less likely to attract bacteria. But using them, especially the old school ones, can cause a lot of damage to the teeth and gums. 

Here are some ways on how you can minimize the risk of developing dental issues:

  • Always keep the area clean. Brush at least twice a day and rinse your mouth regularly.
  • Don’t touch the piercing with unclean hands.
  • Always check if the oral piercing is tightly fastened to avoid choking.
  • Avoid playing with the jewelry with your teeth.
  • Remove the jewelry if you are to participate in sports activities.
  • See your dentist regularly for routine examinations and hygiene cleanings.

Oral piercings are extra work and can be too risky for your oral health and general health. Don’t do it on a whim or due to peer pressure. Should you experience issues with your existing oral piercings, get in touch with your dental team right away.