Oral Piercing and Your Teen’s Dental Health
Speaking with a forked tongue was once just an expression, implying that the speaker was not truthful. Today, forked tongues—tongues surgically split in two—are a reality, just one of the numerous forms of oral “body art” currently popular among teens and young adults. Your teen may want a mouth piercing, but be aware that inserting rings and other jewelry into the tongue, lip or cheek can pose serious health risks and cause permanent dental damage.
In fact, one seven-year study reported in Pediatric Dentistry in 2012 found that 25,000 people—nearly three-quarters of them 14 to 22 years of age—visited American emergency rooms for injuries involving oral piercings. The most common complaint was infection, usually the result of touching the jewelry with unsanitary hands or contact with food and drink. In 1997 the British Dental Journal reported on a severe case of infection for which antibiotic therapy failed; the 25-year-old patient required surgery to remove the barbell-shaped jewelry and decompress the swelling in the floor of her mouth. And in 2008 a healthy 19-year-old woman who had had a recent tongue piercing contracted herpes simplex virus that progressed to hepatitis and subsequent death.
Because the location of a piercing is usually selected for its visual effect, rather than oral safety, the piercing process itself can be hazardous, posing the risk of permanent nerve damage that can affect the sense of taste or a swelling of the tongue that blocks the airway and inhibits breathing. Other complaints—particularly in the post-piercing healing period—include pain, swelling, excessive bleeding and an allergic reaction to the jewelry.
Oral piercings have been linked to gum recession, bone loss and drooling due to increased salivary flow. If jewelry becomes embedded in oral tissue, surgery may be required to
remove it. And piercings can interfere with dental care by obscuring x-rays.
The healing period after piercing requires meticulous attention to hygiene. Your teen should floss daily and brush the teeth, tongue and jewelry after every meal, using a new, soft toothbrush stored away from other toothbrushes to prevent contamination. And your teen must learn to eat carefully in order to avoid biting down on jewelry and damaging teeth, restorations and fillings. Opening the mouth too wide can cause some piercings to catch on the teeth.
If your teen wants an oral piercing, Dr. Jared and his clinical team can provide an individualized assessment of the risks and devise a care plan to maintain oral health. Regular visits to KiDDS Dental will ensure supervision of the piercing and timely repair of any damage before it worsens. If your teen experiences an adverse reaction that does not respond to treatment, we may suggest permanent removal of the piercing and a rehabilitation plan to restore oral health.
Call us to schedule an appointment today! 509-891-7070.