Damage to teeth. Teeth that come into contact with mouth jewelry can chip or crack. One study in a dental journal reported that 47% of people wearing a barbell tongue piercing for 4 or more years had at least one chipped tooth.
Gum disease People with oral piercings- especially long-stem tongue jewelry (barbells) — have a greater risk of gum disease than those without oral piercings. The jewelry can come into contact with gum tissue causing injury as well as a recession of the gum tissue, which can lead to loose teeth and tooth loss.
Infections. The wound created by piercing, the vast amount of bacteria in the mouth, and the introduction of additional bacteria from handling the jewellry all work to increase the risk of infections.
Transmission of diseases. Mouth piercings are a potential risk factor for the transmission of herpes simplex virus and Hepatitis B and C.
Nerve damage/prolonged bleeding. Numbness or loss of sensation at the site of the piercing or movement problems (for pierced tongues) can occur if nerves have been damaged. If blood vessels are punctured, prolonged bleeding can occur. Tongue swelling following piercing can be severe enough to block the airway and make breathing difficult.
Difficulties in daily oral functions. Tongue piercing can result in difficulty chewing and swallowing food and speaking clearly. This is because the jewelry stimulates an excessive production of saliva. Temporary or permanent drooling is another consequence of increased saliva production. Taste can also be altered.
- Allergic reaction to metal. A hypersensitivity reaction — called allergic contact dermatitis- to the metal in the jewelry can occur in susceptible people.
- Jewelry aspiration. Jewelry that becomes loose in the mouth can become a choking hazard and, if swallowed, can result in injury to the digestive track or lungs.
If you have decided to go through with the oral piercing procedure despite these risks, consider the following tips when looking for an oral piercing studio.
- Ask friends who have had their tongue, lips, or cheeks pierced – and have suffered no ill consequences – to recommend the name of the studio they visited.
- Visit the studio. Does the studio have a clean appearance, especially the area where the piercing is done? Ask if they use hospital-grade autoclaves for sterilization and/or use disposable instruments. Does the staff use disposable gloves?
- Ask to see the studio’s health certificates.
- Are all the needles, as well as the studs, hoops, and barbells, kept in sterilized packaging?
- Are all staff members involved in the piercings vaccinated against hepatitis B? They should be.
If the staff is not friendly or willing to answer all of your questions, consider finding another piercing studio.
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 jewelry by using a mouth rinse after every meal.
- Try to avoid clicking the jewelry against teeth and avoid stress on the piercing or the teeth. Be gentle and aware of the jewelry’s movement when talking and chewing.
- Check the tightness of your jewelry periodically (with clean hands). This can help prevent you from swallowing or choking if the jewelry becomes dislodged.
- When taking part in sports, remove the jewelry and protect your mouth with a mouthguard.
- See your dentist regularly, and remember to brush twice a day and floss daily.