While piercing the tongue, lip, or cheek may be considered fashionable and attractive to some, there are a number of health-related risks people often fail to consider before taking the plunge.
One of the most common risks is developing an infection at the site of the piercing. This is caused by the vast amount of bacteria in the mouth, and the introduction of additional bacteria from handling the jewelry.
Because of the wound created by the piercing, there’s a chance that bacteria could enter the bloodstream and lead to the development of endocarditis—an inflammation of the heart or its valves—in people with underlying heart problems.
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.
People with oral piercings—especially long-stem tongue jewelry or 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.
Teeth that come into contact with mouth jewelry can chip or crack. One study in a dental journal reported that 47 percent of people wearing barbell tongue jewelry for four or more years had at least one chipped tooth.
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.
Jewelry can become loose in the mouth and can become a choking hazard. If swallowed, this can result in injury to the digestive track or lungs.
A pierced tongue can take four to six weeks to heal. Pierced lips take between one and two months to heal. During this healing period it’s important to avoid alcohol, spicy foods, and hard and sticky foods. Don’t smoke or use tobacco-based products. Be sure to brush after every meal and rinse with a mouthwash. Rinse your mouth frequently with warm salt water.
Make an appointment with us if you suspect a problem or have a concern. It is critical for us to check your teeth, gums, tongue, and soft tissues for early signs of any problems.