By Last Updated: November 9, 2023

Oral piercings are a fashion trend that has become more and more popular as a form of self-expression. While they do look cool, they can also be dangerous to your oral health in many ways.

With teens and young adults as the most common recipients of oral piercings, weighing the pros and cons before getting it done is always a good idea as it can be permanent and can have long-term effects on your oral health.

Learn more about oral piercings, how they affect your teeth and gums, and the best ways to prevent possible complications from oral piercings.

What is an Oral Piercing?

Oral piercings are a modern-day way to accessorize and express yourself. It is a cosmetic piercing of the oral cavity for the insertion of rings, studs, pins, or other decorative jewelry. Oral piercings are most commonly placed on the tongue. But, other locations may include the cheek, lip, gums, and even the uvula.

How Do Oral Piercings Affect Your Teeth?

The most common side effect of oral piercings on the mouth is infection. The mouth is full of bacteria, which increases the risk of infection. So, if the piercing site is unclean or if unsterilized instruments are used, you may experience pain due to swollen and infected piercing.

In worst-case scenarios, the infection may rapidly spread to affect a significant part of the oral cavity and even the face and the eyes. This may turn life-threatening if the infection causes difficulty in breathing.

Aside from infection, other effects of oral piercings to the teeth and mouth include:

  • Gum Disease

Oral piercings that come in direct contact with the gums may cause gum swelling and recession. Remember that piercings are foreign objects that irritate the gums. Eventually, the gums will swell or they may pull away from the teeth.

  • Tooth Sensitivity

With gum recession, areas of the teeth that should be covered may be exposed. This includes the tooth roots which are prone to sensitivity. This can be felt with the consumption of hot or cold drinks or even with just a blow of air.

  • Bad Breath

Dental infections from oral piercings may also cause bad breath. It may also occur when the piercing area is not cleaned frequently.

  • Damaged Teeth

Clicking the teeth against the jewelry piercing may cause a chipped or cracked tooth. Treatment can be as simple as a tooth filling. But with significant damage, your dentist may need to do root canal treatment or tooth extraction.

Other Possible Complications of Oral Piercings

If you are looking to get oral piercings, other possible complications that may happen are:

  • Bleeding

While some amount of bleeding is normal after getting pierced, it may be a problem if a vessel is hit. This is especially true with the tongue where complex vasculature is present. If a vessel is punctured, significant bleeding may occur and persist.

  • Accidental swallowing or asphyxiation

Oral piercings that accidentally come off may be swallowed and cause asphyxiation due to airway blockage. For larger piercings, difficulty in breathing may occur. They may even lodge along the digestive tract. Surgical intervention may be necessary to retrieve the item.

  • Dental trauma

If you get hit during contact sports or any direct and accidental blow to the face, the metal material of the piercing may cause some trauma to the oral cavity.

  • Damaged braces, dentures

An oral piercing that comes into direct contact with braces or dentures may wear out the material and eventually cause breakage.

  • Hypersalivation

Aside from the blood vessels, another anatomical structure to be wary of before getting a piercing is the salivary duct. When this is pierced through, excessive salivation may occur.

  • Nerve damage

Several structures in the oral cavity supply sensation to the mouth and the face. If these are affected, loss of sensation, whether temporary or permanent, may happen.

  • Medical complications

If you are suffering from medical conditions such as allergies, hemophilia, diabetes, or heart conditions, certain medical risks come with getting piercings. It is important to have your physician updated to prevent complications.

Tips For Teens With Oral Piercings

If you or your teen already has oral piercings or are considering getting one, fret not because there are a handful of tips and tricks that can help prevent permanent oral health concerns.

Keep the area clean

The most important one is to regularly sanitize the area. Keep it free from food particles to avoid infection. Warm salt water is a good antibacterial agent to flush debris and bacteria. You should also avoid touching the area. But if it can’t be helped, make sure your hands are clean.

Practice good oral hygiene

Good hygiene is also crucial in maintaining an oral piercing. Brush and floss properly to avoid side effects such as gum recession. You may also rinse the mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash to cap off your oral health care routine.

Visit your dentist every 6 months

Prevention and early treatment also help with keeping your dental health in check. Dental visits should be made every 6 months for check-ups and cleaning. Aside from maintenance, this allows your dentist to spot problems with your piercing and provide treatment as soon as possible.

Remove jewelry when necessary

If you are going to do contact sports or any physical activity, it is best to remove the jewelry. This will prevent damage to the teeth and gums should accidents occur. Removing it is also advised during sleep.

Oral Piercings — The Bottomline

The Canadian Dental Association and most dentists highly discourage oral piercings because of the accompanying risks and complications. But if you or your teen are seriously considering getting one (or already have one), the best we can do is to apply extra steps to ensure that your smile will remain healthy and beautiful.

At Sierra Dental, our goal is to provide high-quality and compassionate dentistry. With proper oral health education and regular dental visits, we can help you and your teen with proper care to maintain a lifetime of healthy smiles.