Oral piercings in the tongue or lips are a pretty common type of body jewellery, and can be a way to create your own individual style and add more accessories to your appearance. But, what effect do they have inside your mouth? And do tongue and lip piercings damage your teeth?
If you’re considering getting an oral piercing, it’s important to remember that like any other piercing there are certain risks involved, as well as become aware of the other issues specific to tongue and lip piercings and your dental health. It’s best to have a chat with your dentist so they can fully explain the risks of getting an oral piercing, what to expect and how to best look after your piercing.
Here’s some information from our Gold Coast dentists to help you decide if an oral piercing is right for you, and how to properly take care of it if you decide to go ahead.
- What are oral piercings?
- Types of oral piercings
- Risks of tongue piercings
– Chipped/cracked teeth
– Tooth decay
– Bacterial infections
– Nerve damage
- How to look after your oral piercing
1. What are oral piercings?
Oral piercings are any piercings inside the mouth, and can include the tongue, lip, or frenulum (“smiley”). Oral jewellery can be traced back throughout history as decoration among several ancient civilisations such as in Egypt and Central America.
Tongue piercings are usually the most common type of oral piercing today, and are considered to be “intraoral”, which means both ends of the jewellery sit inside the mouth, where for “perioral” piercings one end sits inside the mouth and the other penetrates the surface of the skin.
2. Types of oral piercings
There are a variety of options when deciding on the types of oral piercing jewellery. They can come in several shapes and also materials, such as stainless steel, gold and titanium. Barbells or studs are the simplest option, consisting of a rod with a metal sphere at one or both ends. Rings and circular barbells are common types of lip jewellery, and can also be inserted into the frenulum of the tongue, which is the thin strip of tissue connecting underneath the tongue to the mouth, and the one between the upper middle teeth and inside of the lip.
3. Risks of tongue piercings
When considering getting any piercing, it’s important to understand the possible complications that can occur, no matter where they are on the body. Risks of body piercings can include:
- Allergic reactions to the piercing jewellery or tools used
- Pain, swelling and discomfort during the healing process
- Infections which can cause pain, swelling and redness
- Skin tearing if jewellery gets caught and ripped out
- Potential scarring after removal or poor healing
- Bloodborne diseases such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV
In addition to these regular risks of all piercings, there are several more which are associated with oral piercings in particular. These can include:
When you initially get your tongue or lip pierced, you may frequently find it bumps against your teeth or you accidentally bite it when eating while you’re still getting used to the new sensation. This can sometimes cause damage to your gums and fillings, as well as cracked, scratched teeth or tooth sensitivity as the friction between the jewellery and your teeth wears down the enamel.
Your dentist may be able to advise you on suitable coverings for your piercing to reduce the damage to your teeth, as they will have experience treating patients with oral piercings.
In addition to the weakening of tooth enamel that can cause cracks and chips, the jewellery can also build up plaque as food and debris get stuck, which can cause tooth decay and cavities. This can lead to having to get further treatment down the track such as fillings, crowns or tooth removal.
Due to your mouth being a moist environment, it’s the perfect spot for bacteria to thrive. Bacteria can cause infections in the mouth, even more so when there is an open wound (fresh piercing) that has jewellery in it. An infected piercing can be very serious if the tongue swells and may obstruct your airway, potentially affecting your ability to chew, swallow and breathe.
It’s not uncommon for your tongue to feel slightly numb after piercing, which can occur due to temporary nerve damage. But, for some people, the nerve damage can be permanent and impact on your sense of taste and the way you move your mouth in the long run.
4. How to look after your oral piercing
If you do decide to get your tongue or lip pierced, there are a few key tips for keeping your piercing and your teeth in the best condition possible. These include:
- Brushing your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and a soft toothbrush
- Flossing or using an interdental brush every day
- Using an alcohol-free mouthwash while the piercing heals and afterwards
- Keeping your piercing clean by removing any food or debris that becomes trapped after eating.
- Avoiding playing with the jewellery with your fingers or your teeth
- Keeping an eye out for signs of infection, including swelling, pain or discharge, and contacting your dentist or doctor as soon as possible if you believe you have an infection.
- Removing your jewellery when playing contact sports and wearing a custom mouthguard.
- Marking sure the jewellery is tight using clean hands, as loose jewellery can become a choking hazard.
- Consider buying oral piercing jewellery made from flexible materials such as Bioflex, which may cause less damage when coming into contact with your teeth.
As you can see, there are many factors to take into consideration when deciding whether you should get a tongue or lip piercing.