Sacramento, Calif. — The California Dental Association recognizes that in today’s
society, many people use body piercing as a type of self-expression, but warns that oral
piercings can be dangerous to your health.
“Most people consider it a low-risk choice, but there are significant risks associated with
oral piercings,” said CDA President Lindsey Robinson, DDS. “They can interfere with
speech, chewing or swallowing and often injure the gums, lead to cracked, scratched or
sensitive teeth, and can damage fillings. Because the mouth is full of bacteria, it’s a difficult
area to keep clean and infections occur more readily after an oral piercing.”
Common symptoms after oral piercing include pain, swelling and an increased flow of
saliva. Although not common, serious infections can occur, such as hepatitis or
endocarditis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart). For some, blood poisoning,
metal allergies or blood clots can occur. Additionally, piercers have no standardized
training and may have limited knowledge of anatomy and physiology.
“If there’s a blood vessel or nerve in the path of a piercing, severe and difficult-to-control
bleeding or nerve damage can result,” Robinson said. “Even after an oral piercing has
healed, the risk of serious damage to teeth and gum tissue posed by the mouth jewelry
itself still remains.”
Metal jewelry is often the culprit in cracked or broken teeth and although plastic jewelry
reduces this risk, it cannot eliminate it entirely. For piercings of the lips, the back side of the
jewelry attaches inside the mouth and can be a source of irritation to the opposing tissue.
As the metal or plastic rests on the gum tissue, it can wear away the tissue as it moves back
and forth — a result that requires reconstructive surgery to repair and in some instances
results in lost teeth.
“This happens more commonly than people realize,” Robinson said. “If you have an oral
piercing, it is important to regularly check the tissues in contact with the metal or plastic to
ensure the jewelry isn’t causing damage or infection. And it’s essential to discover this
early in the process.”
CDA recommends consulting your member dentist before making the decision to pierce.
When making that decision, CDA suggests being fully informed and committed to
maintaining your oral health, including brushing with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes,
twice a day, avoiding sugary drinks like soda, flossing daily and visiting a dentist for a
complete dental checkup on a regular basis.
Further reading from Inside Dental Assisting: Look Before You Pierce: Need-to-Know Facts about Oral Piercing Complications