Oral jewelry includes lip and tongue piercings and objects attached to teeth. Piercings have become increasingly popular, but unfortunately, the body art industry is largely unregulated and there are risks involved.
Complications can result from both the jewelry and the piercing procedure. The jewelry itself can:
• be inhaled
• cause allergic reactions
• cause chronic injury to the adjacent teeth and tissue, causing tooth fractures and gum recession leading to loss of teeth
The piercing procedure can cause:
• local bleeding and swelling
• nerve damage
• toxic shock
• permanent drooling
• impaired sense of taste
• distant infections in the liver, heart or brain since oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream during piercing
The National Institute of Health has identified oral piercing as a possible factor in the transmission of hepatitis B, C, D and G. A 2001 study performed by the Mayo Clinic found a 17% rate of medical complications from oral piercing. That’s nearly one in five!
The risk of infection has led the Canadian Dental Association to publish an official position statement on oral jewelry. In it, they point out that “All body piercing presents a level of risk of infection. Because of the presence and variety of bacteria in the oral cavity, oral piercings are considered to have higher risk and are therefore strongly discouraged.”
If, in spite of all the risks, you do plan to have your lip or tongue pierced, be sure to obtain the following information before you make your appointment:
• the experience of the artist including the complication rates
• the infection control practices used
• the after-care instructions
If you do have a piercing done and have any significant problems, get immediate attention.