Lip and Tongue Piercing: What You Need to Know

Lip and Tongue Piercing
At the present time, oral piercings such as tongue bolts, cheek studs, and lip rings seem to be in vogue among a certain number of young people. Whether you find these bodily adornments appealing or repulsive is a matter of personal taste — but whichever side of the fashion divide you're on, there are a few things you should know about the impact they can have on your oral health.

Before you commit to a new oral piercing — whether it be lip, tongue, or cheek — be sure to consider the risks associated with the piercing. The following possible risks are the most common, but everyone’s personal risk list will vary depending on lifestyle and habits.
  • Infection, pain, and swelling. As with any piercing, infection is always a risk, and pain and swelling are almost guaranteed. 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. Fiddling with an oral piercing can injure the gums and lead to cracked, scratched, chipped, or sensitive teeth. Oral piercings can also damage fillings.
  • Tearing accidents. One of the biggest risks you undertake with oral piercings is an unwanted removal of the piercing during an accident that causes the mouth tissue to tear.
  • Hypersensitivity to metals. It is also a possibility that your body will reject the metal or have an allergic reaction.
  • Blood-borne diseases. According to the National Institutes of Health, it is possible to contract hepatitis B, C, D, and G from an unsanitized piercing process.
  • Nerve damage. After a piercing, you may experience a numb tongue that is caused by nerve damage. This is usually temporary but in some cases, the numbness never goes away. The injured nerve may affect your sense of taste, or how you move your mouth.
  • Excessive drooling. Your tongue piercing can increase saliva production, causing unwanted drool.
  • Dental appointment difficulties. An oral piercing can get in the way of dental care by blocking X-rays.
  • Endocarditis. Oral piercings carry a risk of endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart valves or tissues. The piercing site provides an opportunity for oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream, where they can travel to the heart.
  • Keloid formation. Keloids are little bumps that occur around the site of a piercing caused by excess scar tissue, usually on the entrance or exit of the piercing.

It's Your Health — and Your Choice

If you're old enough to get an oral piercing, you're old enough to take an active part in maintaining your own oral health. If you are thinking about having a tongue bolt, lip ring, cheek stud, or other ornament placed in your mouth, talk to your dentist about it first. Due to the increased potential for dental or periodontal problems, you will likely need to attend more frequent checkups, and pay special attention to your oral hygiene.

And if the time comes when you decide that the piercing you got on an impulse isn't what you want any more, take heart: Removing it will immediately reduce your disease risk, and thus instantly improve your oral health!
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