June 14th, 2009
Piercing, like tattooing, is one of today’s popular forms of “body art” and self-expression. If you’re thinking about getting a piercing – or if you already have one or more – we at Dr. Hilliard's office want to share some health risks you should know about.
Your mouth contains millions of bacteria, and infection is a common complication of oral piercing. Just touching your mouth jewelry (tongue barbells and lip and cheek labrettes) can lead to infection. Many people who have piercings tend to regularly touch them – which is a perfect opportunity for bacteria from hands to enter piercing sites. Also, food particles that collect around piercing sites can lead to infection.
Pain and swelling are other possible side effects of piercing. Your tongue – the most popular piercing site in the mouth – could swell large enough to close off your airway! Piercing also can cause uncontrollable bleeding or nerve damage. Damage to the tongue’s blood vessels can cause serious blood loss.
The hoop, ring, stud, and barbell-shaped jewelry can hinder your ability to talk and eat. Some people also develop a habit of biting or playing with their piercings – which can lead to cracked, scratched teeth; gum damage and recession; and sensitive teeth. There may also be a need for restorations, such as crowns or fillings, and additional dental treatment due to piercings.
Consider the potential pitfalls of piercing carefully before getting one. Keep in mind that it will be an added responsibility to your life, and will need regular upkeep. Make sure that you’re committed to the task of taking care of it for the full healing period and beyond.
If you have an oral piercing, pay special attention to it. Clean the piercing with antiseptic mouthwash after eating, and brush the jewelry when you brush your teeth. Of course, let us know at Dr. Hilliard's office if you have any questions.