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.
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.
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.