Body art is one of the earliest forms of artistic expression known to humankind. Oral piercings date back at least 5,000 years and are increasingly popular in today’s culture. Unfortunately, they can also affect your teeth and oral health. Here, Dr. Casazza shares some insights on this topic.
By definition, oral piercings are any piercings of the tongue, lips or cheek. The jewelry used comes in many styles including studs, barbells and rings. Although popular, there are a number of health-related risks associated with oral piercing.
There is a risk of infection by bacteria from the mouth entering the wound. Oral piercing presents a potential risk factor for the transmission of herpes simplex virus and hepatitis B and C. Numbness or loss of sensation at the site of the piercing or movement problems (for pierced tongues) can occur if nerves have been damaged.
People with oral piercings — especially long-stem tongue jewelry (barbells) — have a greater risk of gum disease than those without oral piercings. 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 four or more years had at least one chipped tooth. An allergic reaction to the metal in the jewelry can occur in susceptible people.
If you have decided to go through with the oral piercing procedure despite the risks, consider the following tips when looking for an oral piercing studio.
- Ask friends who had a good experience to recommend the studio they visited.
- Ask the studio if they sterilize or use disposable instruments and if the staff uses disposable gloves.
- Ask to see the studio’s health certificates.
- Look closely at the premises. 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. Make an appointment with your dentist or hygienist if you suspect a problem or have a concern and schedule regular visits to check your teeth, gums, tongue, and soft tissues for early signs of any problems.