Word on Health

Word On Oral Piercings

Our grateful thanks to the Oral Health Foundation for bringing this story to our attention and for their CEO's input into this weeks 'on-air' report. Our grateful thanks also to the American Dental Association (ADA) for the support information below.  

As the ADA states "Body piercing is a popular form of self-expression. Oral piercings or tongue splitting may look cool, but they can be dangerous to your health. That’s because your mouth contains millions of bacteria, and infection and swelling often occur with mouth piercings. For instance, your mouth and tongue could swell so much that you close off your airway or you could possibly choke if part of the jewellery breaks off in your mouth. In some cases, you could crack a tooth if you bite down too hard on the piercing, and repeated clicking of the jewellery against teeth can also cause damage. Oral piercing could also lead to more serious infections, like hepatitis or endocarditis."

Don’t pierce on a whim - do your research. Be fully aware of what you are letting yourself in for. Oral piercings can be dangerous and will be an added responsibility to your life, requiring constant attention and upkeep. 

Whether it be an oral or a body piercing, always make sure you find a reputable, experienced, licensed body piercing shop or piercer to carry out the piercing. Most local councils keep registers of approved piercers who have passed hygiene and safety standards, and who are regularly inspected by health and safety officers. Contact your local council for further information.

If you pierce your tongue, lips, cheeks or uvula (the tiny tissue that hangs at the back of the throat,) it can interfere with speech, chewing or swallowing. It may also cause:

  • Infection, pain and swelling. Your mouth is a moist environment, home to huge amounts of breeding bacteria, and an ideal place for infection. An infection can quickly become life threatening if not treated promptly. It’s also possible for a piercing to cause your tongue to swell, potentially blocking your airway.
  • Damage to gums, teeth and fillings. A common habit of biting or playing with the piercing can injure your gums and lead to cracked, scratched or sensitive teeth. Piercings can also damage fillings.
  • Hypersensitivity to metals. Allergic reactions at the pierced site are also possible.
  • Nerve damage. After a piercing, you may experience a numb tongue that is caused by nerve damage that is usually temporary, but can sometimes be permanent. The injured nerve may affect your sense of taste, or how you move your mouth. Damage to your tongue’s blood vessels can cause serious blood loss.
  • Excessive drooling. Your tongue piercing can increase saliva production.
  • Dental appointment difficulties. The jewellery can get in the way of dental care by blocking X-rays.

If you already have piercings:

  • Contact your dentist or doctor immediately if you have any signs of infection—swelling, pain, fever, chills, shaking or a red-streaked appearance around the site of the piercing. 
  • Keep the piercing site clean and free of any matter that may collect on the jewellery by using a mouth rinse after every meal.
  • Try to avoid clicking the jewellery against teeth and avoid stress on the piercing. Be gentle and aware of the jewellery’s movement when talking and chewing.
  • Check the tightness of your jewellery periodically (with clean hands). This can help prevent you from swallowing or choking if the jewellery becomes dislodged. 
  • When taking part in sports, remove the jewellery and protect your mouth with a mouthguard.
  • See your dentist regularly, and remember to brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. 
  • The best option is to consider removing mouth jewellery before it causes a problem. 

Listen to this weeks radio report

All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.