For many teens, oral piercings are a form of self-expression. For many parents, it’s a different story. Piercings represent a permanent alteration of your child’s body — and worse, they come with a lot of potential risks.
At Dental Kidz Club, our team has seen a lot of problems associated with oral piercings in our teen dentistry patients. Before your child has their tongue or lip pierced, it’s important to help them understand how they could be endangering their future oral health. Here’s what to tell them.
Moist and warm, your mouth is home to millions of bacteria. Some of these bacteria are a major cause of gum disease and mouth and jaw infections. When you have an oral piercing, there’s a high risk of the piercing area becoming infected, too.
Infections can cause significant swelling, and if your piercing is in your tongue, there’s a real risk that swelling could block your airway. Serious infections may result in tissue death and a loss of at least part of the tongue.
Bacteria can also enter your bloodstream through the piercing hole, increasing your risks of developing serious, life-threatening infections, like hepatitis or endocarditis.
Piercings are made in soft tissue or organ tissue (yes, your tongue is a muscular organ), but that doesn’t mean they can’t affect your teeth. Clicking a piercing with your teeth can gradually wear away enamel, increasing the risks of cavities, infections, and cracked or broken teeth or fillings. Accidentally biting down on a piercing can also cause tooth breakage (and a lot of pain).
Studies show some piercings shed metallic particles that can invade the surrounding tissue and even penetrate individual cells. These metal particles can cause ugly lesions to form, and they’re also associated with increased inflammation in the surrounding tissues. Metal allergies can also occur.
Piercings are often associated with temporary numbness in your tongue or cheek that usually goes away after several days. Sometimes, though, nerves are permanently damaged, resulting in a lifelong loss of sensation, along with a decreased sense of taste. Some types of nerve damage can affect the way you move your mouth or tongue.
A leading cause of tooth loss, gum disease happens when “pockets” around your teeth deepen, allowing bacteria to infect the lower parts of your teeth and gums. Research shows piercings may increase pocket depth in teeth nearest to the piercings. That means those teeth could be at increased risk of deep gum infections and eventual tooth loss.
You might think a tongue piercing is sexy — but how do you feel about drooling? For many people, tongue piercings increase saliva production, and that means drooling and even unintentional spitting can be a lot more common.
Even if you think your piercing is secure, it’s not impossible for it to come loose. If that happens, you can easily swallow it or aspirate it into your airway. The sharp end of a piercing increases the likelihood the metal finding will become lodged in your throat or airway, or even in an organ where it can cause blood loss and serious complications.
One more consideration: Your piercings can interfere with regular dental care, making it harder to have routine X-rays that can help your dentist identify tooth decay and gum disease early on. Piercings can even increase the amount of plaque and tartar in your mouth, which means you’re more prone to cavities and bad breath.
Help your teen get informed
With locations in Brea, Corona, Covina, Riverside, Ontario, and Perris, California, Dental Kidz Club makes it easy for teens (and their parents) to get the information they need to enjoy optimal oral health — now, and in the future. If your child is considering an oral piercing, book an appointment online or over the phone and let our team answer all their questions.