Q: My daughter wants to have her tongue pierced. As a concerned parent, I want to be able to advise her of the harm that she may be inflicting upon herself by undergoing this kind of procedure. What are the dental complications of having oral piercings?
A: For starters, the piercing of oral structures has a higher than normal risk of infection due to the vast amounts of bacteria that thrive in the mouth. Unfortunately, as body piercing becomes more en vogue, and as individuals run out of body parts to pierce, many are now turning to the mouth, lips and tongue as places to adorn their jewelry. Common symptoms following the piercing of intraoral structures include pain, swelling, infection and an increased salivary flow.
Other potential complications include the cracking or fracturing of teeth and restorations; the interference with chewing, swallowing or speaking; and the development of nerve sensitivity as a result of the galvanic currents that arise from the metal jewelry contacting the metal fillings in one’s mouth.
It is important to point out that a large portion of the population of individuals who choose to pierce their lips, checks and tongue will more than likely undergo one or more of the above listed adverse conditions. I have seen a number of patients who have required a root canal or tooth extraction due to the damage caused by their oral piercings.
And it is not unheard of to encounter serious secondary infections or even airway obstruction from excessive swelling. My advice is to think long and hard before subjecting one’s self to this form of art and self-expression.