Oral piercings are any piercings that are attached to, or in the mouth. This includes the tongue, lips, and cheeks.
As the stud or ring is pierced to soft tissue, oral piercings pose a far greater risk to your health than those on other parts of the body. This is because they are difficult to care for and are more prone to infection.
Oral piercings are not considered safe and are not recommended.
If you are still considering an oral piercing, it is important to lower the risks and help protect the health of your smile. Treatment should take place in a sterilised environment and carried out by registered piercers.
You can ask your local authority for a list of registered piercers as well as safe piercer associations.
The health risks of oral piercings
There are many risks associated with oral piercings. It is important that you are aware of all of these before going through with treatment. If you are concerned about the possible dangers involved with oral piercings, you should not feel pressured to have one.
Some of the health risks to your smile include:
Piercings in your mouth carry more risk because even a healthy mouth is full of bacteria. Handling jewellery once it has been placed in the mouth also increases the chances of having an infection. It is important to wash your hands before touching any piercings in the mouth.
If a blood vessel is punctured by the needle during piercing, the mouth can bleed, and it could be difficult to control depending on which blood vessel has been punctured.
Punctures during tongue piercings are likely to cause a lot of bleeding. This is because the tongue gets its blood supply from the lingual artery – a major branch of the cartiod artery (the artery that supply blood to the brain, neck, and face).
Bleeding of any kind can be distressing. Stay calm and apply firm and consistent pressure to the cut and tip your head forwards to avoid swallowing any blood. If the blood vessel under your tongue starts bleeding heavily and does not stop, seek medical attention by going to A&E.
Pain and swelling
These are common symptoms of oral piercings. However, in extreme cases, a severely swollen tongue can close off the airway and restrict breathing. If your tongue is swollen and the swelling has not gone down, consult a GP. If you have any difficulty breathing, go to A&E.
Chipped or cracked teeth
It is easy to crack or chip teeth on piercings and tongue bars especially when they are newly pierced as it takes time to get used to something else being permanently in your mouth.
Injury to the gums
Jewellery can sometimes damage the soft gum tissue.
Ingesting or inhaling loose jewellery
If parts of piercings come loose, they can be easily swallowed which poses a choking hazard.
Having something new in your mouth all the time takes some getting used to. At first, lip and tongue piercings can cause speech difficulties – especially if the area is still swollen.
Oral piercings have been identified by the National Institutes of Health as a possible factor in transmitting hepatitis B, C, D and G. This is just one reason that you should be getting piercings by a professional piercer in a sterile environment.
Oral piercings carry a risk of endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart valves or tissues. The wound created during oral piercing provides an opportunity for oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream.
You can help avoid any of these risks by going to see a professional piercer who has a good track record and having your piercing done in a sterile environment.
If your oral piercing causes any pain or problems, visit your dentist immediately. Do not wait for your regular check-up.
Proper piercing care
The most important advice is to keep your piercings clean.
If you do not clean mouth piercings regularly then you may be ingesting harmful bacteria.
Rinse oral piercing with antibacterial mouthwash after each meal to limit bacteria build up and debris. When you first have an oral piercing, you may be advised against using an alcohol-based mouth rinses for a short time, as they can affect the piercing stud. In this case, you can use either saltwater, saline solution, or just plain water to rinse the mouth. You should also be removing the piercings regularly for cleaning.
Chewing gum should also be avoided whilst mouth piercings are healing.
Even when carried out in a safe and sterilised environment, living with an oral piercing can make it more difficult to care for your mouth, and could lead to greater risk of oral disease. Because of this, they are not recommended.