Lip Piercing Can Lead to Receding Gums

Tongue, Lip Piercings Also Linked to Other Tooth, Gum Problems

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on March 10, 2005

Mar. 10, 2005 -- People who go in for lip piercing may get more than they bargained for. Besides attracting attention, they could also wind up with receding gums.

Lip piercing can lead to receding gums and may make the problem worse, say researchers from Ohio State University.

They compared the gums of 29 young adults with pierced lips to those of 29 with unpierced lips. All participants were about 22 years old, and roughly half were women.

About 41% of those with pierced lips had receding gums. That's much higher than the 7% rate seen in those with unpierced lips.

In addition, gums had receded more than twice as much in those with pierced lips. People who'd had their lips pierced for the longest time fared worst. Age, gender, and other factors didn't matter; only length of time with a pierced lip was important.

The study was conducted by professor Dimitris Tatakis, DDS, PhD, and colleagues from Ohio State's College of Dentistry. They announced their findings in Baltimore, at a meeting of the International Association for Dental Research.

Tongue Piercing Is Also Risky

Piercing the tongue isn't a better bet. Tongue piercing has already been linked to receding gums.

It's not the holes, but oral jewelry that's the problem. The jewelry rubs along the gum line, and the wear and tear can cause permanent damage.

Besides receding gums, lip or tongue piercings can also cause:

  • Chipped or fractured teeth
  • Nerve damage or inflammation at the piercing site
  • Periodontitis (where the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth and form pockets) resulting in loose teeth or tooth loss

Those results were reported in the Journal of the American Dental Association in July 2003.

Show Sources

SOURCES: 83rd General Session & Exhibition of the International Association for Dental Research, Baltimore, March 9-12, 2005. WebMD Medical News: "Oral Piercing Causes Long-Term Dental Damage."

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