Oral piercings, globally, go back thousands of years. Usually denoting a stage in a youth’s development or a religious or tribe affiliation. Today, piercings are fairly common and are extremely diverse in placement. From the basic tongue piercing (dorsoventral) of 1 barbell through the center of the tongue to more elaborate dorsolateral, or the myriad of facial piercings available the cheeks, gums and teeth become exposed to the metal jewelry.
Many pierced individuals don’t realize the impact their piercing can have on their oral health. Risks include gum recession, infection, loss of bone and chipped teeth. As many choose oral and facial piercings for beautification or aesthetic purposes, it is hard to imagine they don’t also care about their smile. It is important as dental professionals to both understand the basics or oral piercings and potential complications. We should also be able to provide education and guidance for proper home care for individuals with piercings. Some recommendations include:
- Brush teeth and tongue and use a non-alcohol or saline rinse after every meal.
- Floss daily.
- Avoid clicking the jewelry against the teeth or gums.
- With clean hands, check the tightness of jewelry to avoid choking, swallowing or inhaling dislodged jewelry.
- Remove the jewelry and wear a mouth guard when participating in sports.
- Know and look for signs of infection or other complications.
- Routine dental care both at home and professionally is important for optimum oral health.
- Provide written information.
Piercings can and do cause dental problems. As providers it is part of our job to educate pierced patients just like any other patients we may see.