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  • Dr Vidya Varathan Dental Care

How Safe is Oral Jewelry?

First your daughter wanted to get her ears pierced, then her nose. And now your son wants to get his tongue pierced. You’re all for self-expression as long as it’s harmless — but how safe is oral jewelry?

When it comes to oral piercings, most dental professionals say no. The possible complications or problems one might encounter immediately after an oral piercing are similar to what you’d expect after any puncture wound or incision. Namely, pain, swelling and infection, as well as scar tissue formation.

However, secondary infections following oral piercings can be quite serious, he says, especially ones involving the tongue. Some patients who have required surgery to correct the damage done. In some cases, the damage wasn’t reversible or completely repairable.If your teen is still set on adding a little oral bling, here’s what you need to know to make an informed and safe decision.

What, exactly, is an oral piercing?

Oral piercings usually consist of a barbell through the tongue or labret (the space between the lower lip and chin).

Other common oral piercing locations include the lips, uvula and cheeks.

The jewelry comes in different styles, including labret studs, barbells and rings. They can be made of stainless steel, gold, titanium, plastic or nickel.

What problems can an oral piercing cause?

Complications vary depending on the location of the piercing.For piercings through the tongue or lip, or below the tongue, there’s a risk of teeth chipping from the stud at the end of the device. Piercings through the floor of the mouth below the tongue or through the tongue have the highest risk of developing into a serious infection.

These areas have a high blood supply and they’re located close to major structures such as the airway that can become obstructed as a result of infection.There is also a risk of nerve or muscle damage from the piercing. While this is not usually serious or permanent, it’s a little disconcerting for the patient.

There can also be damage to the gum tissue, particularly with certain labrets. The jewelry can cause gums to recede and leave the tooth root more vulnerable to decay and periodontal disease. Not a pretty picture. Especially when you factor in other possible complications such as bad breath, drooling and problems with chewing and swallowing.

Oral piercings have become increasingly less popular with teen patients now a days. A particularly bad infection as the result of a tongue piercing was in the news a few years ago. That may have dampened the enthusiasm of some youth. If you need more advice on how safe is oral jewelry, get in contact with us.

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