Body piercing has become a popular form of self-expression, especially for but not limited to young adults. Oral piercing is becoming trendier but is not without risks and complications. The tongue is the most common site with the lips, uvula (soft tissue hanging from the back of the palate), cheeks and a combination of these sites also being utilized.
Be sure the procedure is performed by qualified professionals who use disposable gloves, disposable or sterile instruments and sterilized jewelry. For several days after the piercing, you can expect swelling, pain, increased salivary flow and sometimes infection. There may be prolonged bleeding from punctured blood vessels. It is also possible to experience a numb tongue from temporary nerve damage, occasionally this can be permanent.
The healing period is usually 3-6 weeks before the permanent device (hoops, studs, barbells) can be placed. During the healing stage, avoid spicy foods, alcohol and smoking. Use antiseptic or warm salt water mouth rinses; keep talking to a minimum for the first few days.
Complications arising from oral piercing can include:
- Damage to teeth and gums: Often due to playing with or biting piercing.
- Allergic reactions: from hypersensitivity to materials in the piercing.
- Change in the way your food tastes: piercing can interfere with taste buds
- Problems with speech, chewing and/or swallowing
- Life threating complications have been reported: bleeding, swelling, heart complications in susceptible patients.
After healing and to minimize complications:
- Remove jewelry once a day for cleaning and irrigate the hole with water.
- For those with tongue piercing, the tongue should be brushed every day.
- Proper care or removal should be taken during strenuous, contact sports.
- See your dentist regularly to assess for complications
- Contact you dentist immediately if any signs of infection
The best way to avoid complications is to remove the mouth jewelry or to not get a piercing in the first place! In fact the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists opposes the practice of intra-oral piercing due to the potential for complications. Ask Dr. Hill or Dr. Stout if you have additional questions.
Additional information and references: