Mouth piercing health issues explained by dentist in Surbiton

The fashion of “body art” is very popular, especially as many high profile celebrities have had tattoos, piercings and other decorations applied to their bodies. Mouth decorations, especially piercing, is particularly fashionable, but does carry risks, not only to the teeth and mouth itself, but also to your general health.

There is little control over who may set up a body piercing studio. Sterilising equipment e.g. autoclaves, are expensive and some practitioners may not have them, so their instruments may not be completely clean.

>Risks

Because of its closeness to the airway, and the fact that it is not possible to keep the area clean and dry while it is healing, a number of problems can arise following a piercing in the mouth are:

  • Infection. Bacteria under the tongue can spread quickly and lead to potentially fatal toxic shock syndrome or blood poisoning.
  • Swelling, especially of the tongue
  • Speech impediments
  • Breathing problems
  • Difficulty chewing and eating
  • Prolonged bleeding
  • Broken and chipped teeth, where a stud has knocked against them, or if it is accidentally bitten
  • Gum Shrinkage, where the stud rubs against them over a prolonged period
  • Cross infection with hepatitis, HIV, herpes simplex or candida if equipment is not properly sterilised
  • Stud can come loose and accidentally swallowed or inhaled
  • Allergic reaction can occur if the stud is not made of gold, titanium or surgical steel
  • Scarring and damage to nerves in the tongue
  • Some orthodontists refuse to do work on patients with pierced tongues, because of the effect of the muscle position and the risk of encouraging speech impediments
  • Calculus can form on the metal surface
  • Oral hygiene is made more difficult, and it is harder for a dentist to X-ray the mouth.

Reputable Practitioners

For all the above reasons, most doctors and dentists advise against mouth piercing, but if you do want to have it done, make sure to use a reputable piercer or body artist, whose work area is clean and equipment is sterile.

Following mouth piercing, keep the area clean and hygienic. Avoid touching the area directly but if you do need to do, wash your hands with antibacterial detergent. Suck ice to help sooth pain and swelling. Rinse with diluted antibacterial mouthwash and/or salt water, don’t smoke while the piercing is healing.

Oral hygiene Advice

Ask your dentist/hygienist for oral health advice, which will include:

Brushing the tongue, stud and barbell twice daily with a soft toothbrush

Removing the stud once a month to clean thoroughly

Do not use ordinary jewellery to clean as they will irritate the mouth

Check the jewellery regularly to ensure it is intact

Do not fiddle or play with the studs and take care when chewing to avoid biting or knocking the stud.

First Aid

If an infection develops, see your GP or dentist for antibiotic treatment

If you find it difficult to swallow or breathe, seek urgent medical help

If you chip or crack a tooth, visit your dentist.

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