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Dental Health and Oral Piercing

While piercing the tongue, lip, or cheek may be attractive to some, there are a number of health-related risks associated with oral piercing, including:

  • Infections. The wound created by piercing, the vast amount of bacteria in the mouth, and the introduction of additional bacteria from handling the jewelry all work to increase the risk of infections.
  • Transmission of diseases. Oral piercing is a potential risk factor for the transmission of herpes simplex virus and hepatitis B and C.
  • Endocarditis. Because of the wound created by the piercing, there's a chance that bacteria could enter the bloodstream and lead to the development of endocarditis -- an inflammation of the heart or its valves -- in certain people with underlying (and often undiagnosed and without symptoms) heart problems.
  • Nerve damage/prolonged bleeding. Numbness or loss of sensation at the site of the piercing or movement problems (for pierced tongues) can occur if nerves have been damaged. If blood vessels are punctured, prolonged bleeding can occur. Tongue swelling following piercing can be severe enough to block the airway and make breathing difficult.
  • Gum disease. People with oral piercings -- especially long-stem tongue jewelry (barbells) -- have a greater risk of gum disease than those without oral piercings. The jewelry can come into contact with gum tissue causing injury as well as a recession of the gum tissue, which can lead to loose teeth and tooth loss.
  • Damage to teeth. Teeth that come into contact with mouth jewelry can chip or crack. One study in a dental journal reported that 47% of people wearing barbell tongue jewelry for 4 or more years had at least one chipped tooth.
  • Difficulties in daily oral functions. Tongue piercing can result in difficulty chewing and swallowing food and speaking clearly. This is because the jewelry stimulates an excessive production of saliva. Temporary or permanent drooling is another consequence of increased saliva production. Taste can also be altered.
  • Allergic reaction to metal. A hypersensitivity reaction -- called allergic contact dermatitis -- to the metal in the jewelry can occur in susceptible people.
  • Jewelry aspiration. Jewelry that becomes loose in the mouth can become a choking hazard and, if swallowed, can result in injury to the digestive track or lungs.

If you have decided to go through with the oral piercing procedure despite these risks, consider the following tips when looking for an oral piercing studio.

  • Ask friends who have had their tongue, lips, or cheeks pierced -- and have suffered no ill consequences -- to recommend the name of the studio they visited.
  • Visit the studio. Does the studio have a clean appearance, especially the area where the piercing is done? Ask if they use hospital-grade autoclaves for sterilization and/or use disposable instruments. Does the staff use disposable gloves?
  • Ask to see the studio's health certificates.
  • Are all the needles, as well as the studs, hoops, and barbells, kept in sterilized packaging?
  • Are all staff members involved in the piercings vaccinated against hepatitis B? They should be.

If the staff is not friendly or willing to answer all of your questions, consider finding another piercing studio.

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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