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Oral Problems from Tongue and Lip Piercings

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 7 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
Lip Tongue Piercing Dental Health Teeth

With lip and tongue piercings still considered a fashionable statement for many teenagers and adults today, it makes sense to think about how they might affect your mouth and teeth. Ideally, it's wise to give it some thought prior to getting the piercing but if you already have one and haven't experienced troubles yet, there are ways you can minimise any from occurring.

Piercings and Risks to Your Mouth

While there are obvious oral concerns such as swelling and infection, most lip and tongue piercings that are done by reputable professionals heal quite well. The same is true for personal care at home – if you look after your piercing according to the piercer's instructions, you will likely heal in normal and due time.

The key worry then, is more what happens after you have healed. The foreign object in your mouth can lead to a host of problems.

Chipped Teeth

Anytime that your teeth are in contact with a piece of jewellery, there is potential for them to become chipped or even to crack. In one study, nearly half of those people who had a tongue piercing and wore a barbell for four years or more suffered from a chipped tooth.

A Healthy and Functional Mouth

Another consideration is how your piercing might affect day-to-day functioning of your mouth. Tongue piercings can, for some people, affect the chewing of food, partly because the jewellery itself can result in an increase in saliva production.

Receding Gums

Receding gums are a common issue with lip and tongue piercings. They occur because the jewellery consistently rubs against gum tissues for an extended period of time. The result is that gums begin to recede, which can then leave a person with increased sensitivity to hot and cold. This is due to the exposed nerves.

Food in Piercings

Food can become caught in piercings, particularly lip piercings. If food remains there, it can result in an overgrowth of bacteria and ultimately, infection. Proper removal and cleaning, however, can make a big difference and help you to minimise this kind of problem.

Catching on a Tooth

With lip piercings, yet another thing to keep in mind is that the jewellery can catch on your tooth as well, leaving you with a tear in the piercing hole. Again, this puts you at a higher risk of infection.

Minimising Risk and Damage

Some people find that the mouth guards meant to help people who grind their teeth can also work well preventatively to reduce friction against gum and mouth tissues. While these are only worn at night, it can still help to minimise damage such as receding gums and chipping.

Above all, if you have not undergone a piercing yet, take some time to think about what can go wrong and whether the aesthetic benefits of the piercing outweigh the risks. If you still plan to obtain the piercing, talk to your dentist about ways to reduce damage that can occur. For those who want to enjoy a lip or tongue piercing, while you may have a higher risk of damage, your healthy choices and discussion with your dentist can make the difference in reducing the occurrence and extent of any problems.

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