Lip and tongue piercings are popular among teenagers and young adults, but there are many oral health risks associated with piercings that can cause a lot of harm, both in the short and long term.
In an effort to establish individuality and personal agency, teens often want to try new things that test limits and make them stand out in the crowd. These things can sometimes include body modifications, such as oral (lip and tongue) piercings.
You’re probably aware, as the parent of a teenager, that when they set their minds on something, push back from mom or dad can just make them more adamant.
But, if your teen is interested in getting an oral piercing, it’s imperative that he or she is aware of all the potential risks involved in such a choice, since they can be significant.
My teenager wants a tongue or lip piercing. Is this safe?
Some of these risks include
- Infection - Due to the high level of bacteria in the mouth, the wound created by oral piercings presents a much higher risk of infection than many other types of piercings, especially when the additional bacteria that comes from handling the jewelry is added to the mix.
- Disease Transmission - Oral piercings highten the risk of the transmission of certain diseases, like herpes simplex virus, as well as hepatitis B & C.
- Chipped Tooth Enamel - Teeth can become chipped or cracked when they come into contact with metal jewelry. This can result in expensive dental work.
- Nerve Damage - Numbness, loss of sensation, and difficulty moving the pierced area can occur if nerves are damaged during piercing. In addition, the tongue swelling that can result from a piercing can sometimes be severe enough to block the airway and impede breathing.
- Endocarditis - The wound introduced by an oral piercing can give the that bacteria in the mouth access to the bloodstream, leading to the development of endocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart and/or its valves.
- Difficulties with Daily Oral Function - Tongue piercing can make it hard to chew and swallow food, and to speak clearly. This is partially because the jewelry can cause excessive saliva production, resulting in temporary or permanent drooling.
- Increased Risk of Gum Disease - People with oral piercings, in particular long-stem tongue jewelry, are at a higher risk of gum disease than those without oral piercings. This is because when the jewelry comes into contact with the gums, it can cause injury and gum tissue recession.
If my teen already has an oral piercing, or insists on getting one, how should we care for it, to keep it healthy and safe?
If your teen is set on getting a piercing in spite of the risks and objections, you can lessen the risks by following these steps:
- Make sure your teen fully understands all associated risks beforehand, and that he or she knows exactly what’s involved in caring for an oral piercing.
- When choosing an establishment where the piercing procedure will be performed, pick one that has strict cleanliness and sanitation regulations in place, and where the staff is experienced and well trained. Do your research ahead of time.
- Regular dental checkups and cleanings, in combination with a thorough at home oral hygiene routines, are even more important for someone with an oral piercing. Make sure your teen stays on top of oral care to lessen the likelihood of problems with his or her piercing.