Though fads and styles come and go, oral piercings remain a popular alternative style choice. Lip piercings, tongue piercings and cheek piercings are the most common, but it’s safe to say that any spot that can be pierced has been by someone — including under the tongue, inside the lips, and even the uvula! When deciding whether or not to get a piercing, most people consider the appearance, pain level, maintenance and price. However, dentists are speaking out and urging oral piercing enthusiasts to also take their dental health into consideration.
When thinking about oral piercings, dental hygiene might not be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, but getting a piercing in or around the mouth can have an impact on oral health. The piercing hardware can damage your teeth, chipping away the enamel or causing your gums to recede. The site of your piercing can also be vulnerable to infection, a cause for serious concern considering the amount of bacteria that exists in your mouth at all times. Finally, piercings can make it more difficult for dentists to perform examinations and give x-rays of your mouth.
Dentists’ Advice for Oral Health and Piercings
If the disapproval of your dentist doesn’t change your desire to get pierced, there are a few things you can take into account to help maintain good dental health with an oral piercing.
Get Pierced by a Trusted Professional
This goes for any piercing or tattoo, of course, but it’s particularly important with oral piercings. Make sure that you choose a piercer with a good reputation who maintains an excellent standard of cleanliness. Our mouths contain millions of bacteria, and infections anywhere in the mouth can lead to larger problems. Especially for tongue piercings, it’s crucial that the piercing professional knows how to avoid puncturing a blood vessel, which can lead to prolonged, difficult to control bleeding.
Choose tooth-friendly hardware
Be mindful of your teeth and gums when you’re selecting the jewelry that you will wear in your piercing. Barbells made of polymer are much less likely to damage your teeth than metal, so talk to your piercer about getting hardware made of this more gentle material. If metal is your only option (you may need to initially get a standard barbell placed in your piercing and wait until it’s healed to change it), be sure that it’s high-quality, surgical-grade steel. For tongue piercings, you can also opt for a smaller ball on the bottom of the piercing to avoid injuring the sensitive area below your tongue.
Be Mindful of Your Piercing…and Your Teeth and Gums
After your piercing is done, always be aware of it. Excessively fiddling with the piercing will damage your teeth and trigger gum recession. If it gets snared on your teeth while you’re talking or eating, it could tear a hole in the piercing site. You may need to adjust the way you eat and talk to avoid unnecessary contact between the piercing and your teeth and gums.
Of course, the best way to avoid tooth damage from an oral piercing is not to get one! But if you feel that this piercing is necessary for your self-expression, follow these suggestions and take all the precautions that you can.
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My name is Jeremy Rourke. I’m part of a family of dentists with my father, brother, cousin and nephew also being dentists. I won a University of Sydney Dental Alumni prize for being the top student in my year and graduated with Honours in 1971. I have been a Registered dentist for over 40 years. In that time I have created a few “firsts” in my efforts to stay ahead.