Making an Informed Decision About Oral Piercings

Making an Informed Decision About Oral Piercings

At our uptown OKC dentist office, our staff at Shepherds Mall Family Dentistry certainly appreciates our patients desire to find a unique way to stand out from the crowd. However, when it comes to selecting an oral piercing, there’s more to consider than just how great you will look.

Our mouths are filled with bacteria that can lead to the development of an infection and swelling. If a piercing causes the tongue to swell, it can block your airway and make it difficult for you to breathe. Tongue piercings can also increase your risk for bleeding and blood loss, as the tongue contains a lot of blood vessels.

Of course, it’s not just the health of your tongue that’s at risk. This type of piercing can cause other issues to develop as well. Tongue piercings can break off in the mouth, becoming a choking hazard. Having a metal rod in your mouth also makes you very susceptible to chipping a tooth while eating, sleeping, or talking. If the crack that develops goes deep into the structure of your tooth, you may need to undergo a root canal or risk losing the tooth.

In general, having an oral piercing of any kind may lead to:

  • Difficulty chewing, speaking, or swallowing
  • Damage to the tongue, gums, or fillings
  • Increasing drooling
  • Serious health problems, including gum disease, long-term infection, and hepatitis B and C
  • An allergic reaction to the metal in the piercing

Because of these associated risks, the American Dental Association strongly recommends against getting an oral piercing. Patients with certain health conditions – such as heart disease, diabetes, and hemophilia – might have a hard time healing after getting a piercing and could develop complications.

If all this didn’t give you enough to chew when considering whether to get an oral piercing, a recent study may help sway your opinion.

Tongue Piercing Linked to Gum Inflammation

In a recent small study, researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland examined the link between oral piercings and gum health in 18 patients with a tongue or lip piercing. Researchers found that for the 14 patients with a tongue piercing, gum health was substantially worse surrounding the teeth that were in close proximity to the piercing when compared with teeth not affected by the piercing.

While the small sample size of this study makes it easy to ignore, the results paint a pretty clear picture. Due to the repeated contact of the piercing to the gum tissue, inflammation is more likely to develop. This in turn directly leads to more damage and worse gum health over the long-term.

Taking the Right Precautions

If you do decide to get an oral piercing, make sure to first get up to date on your vaccinations for tetanus and hepatitis B.

When selecting a piercing shop, look for one that appears clean and properly run. Only accept a piercing from someone who has a license, which ensures they have undergone the proper training. The piercer should wash his or her hands with germ-killing sanitizer and soap, wear a fresh pair of disposable gloves, and use either a sterilized tool or one that’s disposable.

Once you’re piercing is complete, it can take anywhere from 3 to 4 weeks to heal. During that time try to:

  • Avoid kissing anyone until fully healed
  • Avoid sharing plates, cups, or utensils
  • Eat in small bites
  • Avoid eating spicy, salty, or highly acidic foods
  • Avoid consuming hot beverages like tea or coffee

When to Visit Our Uptown OKC Dentist Office

While short-term symptoms like pain and swelling will develop, there are some symptoms that may signal a more serious problem has developed. These signs of infection may include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Discharge
  • Foul smelling odor
  • Rash
  • Fever

If you experience any of these symptoms, you need to see a healthcare provider like your uptown OKC dentist immediately.

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