Mouth Lip and Tongue Piercings: Oral Piercing Dental Concerns

Mouth, lip and tongue piercings have become popular over the years and their popularity continues to increase.

Due to this, I’ve been more frequently discussing dental concerns about piercings with more patients.  The American Dental Association (ADA) advises against the practices of cosmetic intraoral/perioral piercing and tongue splitting, and views these as invasive procedures with negative health sequelae that outweigh any potential benefit.

Whether a transient fad or part and parcel of your identity,  I would advise you to speak to your dentist at your next dental check up before you get your piercing. Personally I have no issue with the aesthetics of the ‘tamer’ piercings. As a dentist I have concerns about the health of your mouth.

No cosmetic procedure should ever outweigh the benefits of good oral health.

An oral or intra oral piecing is a small hole placed in the lip, cheeks, tongue, frenulum or uvula for jewelry to be worn. I have to admit I’m happy I’m writing this article. I didn’t even know you could get your uvula pierced. Did you? I’m in shock and shook. The things I learn every day.

Anyway, each piercing for each specific site in and outside the mouth has a specific name – Smiley and Frowny piercings for the upper and lower frenulum respectively, labret , dahlia bites, venom, dimple piercings and many more.

My Concerns as a Dentist

Risk of infection

If you have bad oral hygiene meaning you don’t brush at least three times daily, you don’t floss and you don’t visit a dentist twice a year DON’T GET ORAL PIERCINGS!

The mouth is teeming with bacteria which love to colonize any surface. Natural teeth, the tongue, veneers, orthodontic appliances you name it bacteria will colonize it.
With no exception are your piercings which can become a source of infection. I’ve seen piercings with a film of white yellowish plaque surrounded by red inflamed tissues. I usually advise my patient to permanently remove the piercing. 

That’s why I say, if you know you aren’t the best at keeping your mouth clean avoid them altogether. You are at more risk of infection with oral piercings.

My area of interest is periodontology.  I have found is that in some patients because some part of the jewelry is always in contact with teeth or gums, damage to these tissues occurs. Teeth can become cracked or even chipped but in worse news yet the constant rubbing of jewelry on gums can irritate them cause swelling and pain but also gum recessions.

I had a patient who had gotten the smiley piercing, complaining of sensitivity to cold foods. When I examined her, to my dismay the gums of her upper central incisors had receded, given her teeth a longer appearance. Oral piercings should not be worn on a long term basis.

Poor Healing

Each person heals differently. While cleaning piercings in the ear or other parts of the body can involve alcohol to disinfect and exposure to air which aids healing, this does not happen in the mouth. The mouth is not a sterile environment and cannot be made so. Tissues can be slow to heal in a constantly moist environment. This can cause swelling and tenderness affecting daily activities such as speaking and eating.
If you’re a smoker don’t get oral piercings. Poorly healing piercings should immediately be checked by your dentist.

Choking hazard

The mouth is constantly in motion. Lips change shape, the tongue must move to allow speech and swallowing. This means that the possibility of jewelry coming loose is high which can result in choking, aspiration or swallowing.  All oral piercings should be removed during exercise especially during contact sports.

The choice to get an oral piercing is a personal one. If you’re interested in getting an oral piercing or you already have one, you should weigh the above mentioned risks along with others not stated here. Remember my point of view is from that of a dentist promoting holistic oral care. You should make your own informed decision regarding oral piercings. Except the uvula piercing. That is definitely one that you shouldn’t get.

Do you know someone who has an oral piercing? Do you think they know these risks?

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