Oral and body piercings are an ancient tradition usually seen in adolescents and young adults who choose to use a piercing as a form of body art and self-expression. Unlike regular piercings, oral piercings come with far more complications due to the sensitive region of the mouth. Oral piercings can be placed on the tongue, lip, cheek or on any other soft tissue found around the mouth area. The common forms of oral jewelry include studs, rings, hoops and barbells which are made of various metals including: stainless steel, gold, titanium or other synthetic materials.

Types of Oral Piercings:

  • Tongue piercings
  • Lip piercings
  • Inner Mouth piercings (i.e. cheek, uvula piercing, lower/ upper gum tissue)

Treatment for Oral Piercings

  1. Use a mouthwash that is alcohol-free.
  2. Use saltwater rinses. Warm or cold saltwater rinses after eating, drinking, and smoking will aid in the healing process and soothe the pierced area.
  3. Brush daily. Brushing at least three times per day will eliminate plaque and bacteria as well as food particles from accumulating and thus prevent hindering of the healing process. Use proper toothpaste. It is important that patients use a dentifrice free of whitening products to prevent developing a yeast infection.
Are there risks to getting an oral piercing? Yes. Though most people consider piercing a low-risk choice, there are significant risks associated with oral piercings.

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 pain, swelling, and an increased flow of saliva.

The mouth is full of bacteria and cannot be kept “clean” in the traditional sense. As a result, infection also occurs more readily after an oral piercing, and, though not common, can include serious infections, such as hepatitis or endocarditis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart).

Additionally, piercers have no standardized training and may have limited knowledge of anatomy and physiology. If a blood vessel or nerve is in the path of the needle during the piercing, severe and difficult-to-control bleeding or nerve damage can result. For some, blood poisoning, metal allergies, or blood clots can occur.

Even after the initial healing process, there is the ongoing risk of serious damage to teeth and gum tissue posed by the mouth jewelry itself. Metal jewelry is often the culprit in cracked or broken teeth. Plastic jewelry reduces this risk, though cannot eliminate it entirely.

For piercings of the lips, the “backside” of the jewelry, attached inside the mouth, can be a source of irritation to the opposing tissue. As the metal or plastic rests on the gum tissue, it can abrade and literally wear it away as it moves back and forth. This requires reconstructive surgery to repair and in some instances results in lost teeth. This happens more commonly than people realize.

Therefore, it is very important to regularly check the tissues in contact with the metal or plastic piercing to ensure one’s continued health. If the jewelry is causing damage or infection, it is essential to discover this early in the process.

Of course, the best option is to consider removing mouth jewelry before it causes a problem. Don’t pierce on a whim. The piercing will be an added responsibility to your life, requiring constant attention and upkeep.

How to take care if you already have piercings?

The best option to consider if you already have oral piercings is to remove them before a problem arises. However, if you wish to keep them, ensure that you take care of the following things:

  • If you doubt any signs of infection, contact your dentist or physician immediately.
  • Keep the site clean and neat by using a mouth rinse after every meal.
  • Do not click the jewelry against your teeth. Be gentle and aware of the jewelry's movement when talking and chewing; avoid any stress on the piercing. 
  • Ensure that the jewelry is properly tight. This can help prevent you from swallowing or choking if the jewelry becomes dislodged.
  • It is advised to remove the piercing and protect the mouth with a mouthguard while taking part in sports.
  • Maintain proper oral hygiene habits - brush twice a day and floss daily. Also, never skip your biannual dental appointments.

When should I get the help of a healthcare provider?

Watch out for signs of infection - redness, swelling, lots of bleeding, discharge, bad smell, rash, and fever. If you experience any of these issues or feel that something is not right, visit a dentist or healthcare provider immediately.  

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