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Put off Piercing!

Express Your Individuality Without Jeopardizing Oral Health

By Amy Morgan


We’ve all felt the desire to express our individuality. Trends come and go. Some are relatively harmless – like the Stanley tumbler craze. And hair color is simple to change. But some seemingly innocent fads actually carry long term ramifications. 


One such example is oral piercing. Mandy Dennis, a registered dental hygienist with more than 24 years of experience who trains staff in her role as Director of Hygiene Operations for 7to7 Dental & Orthodontics, cautions those considering a piercing to think again. 


While some of her patients believe piercing is a less permanent option than a tattoo, most are not aware of the negative health impact. 


“They’ll tell me, ‘I can take it out,’ Mandy said. “But will they before it does permanent damage?” She’s seen chipped teeth, broken braces, and, worst of all, bone and gum tissue loss — something that cannot be restored.


Because the bones of the jaw provide the structural support for the teeth, if bone is lost, you are putting yourself at risk of losing teeth, Mandy cautioned. 


She remembers a 33-year-old patient who had gotten a lower lip piercing in her 20s. She began noticing gum sensitivity. The piercing’s back was irritating her gums and exposing the roots of the teeth. Worse yet, her teeth were starting to loosen! “That is not reversible without a bone graft that costs thousands of dollars,” Mandy said. 

“There are so many ways to individualize your look instead of an oral piercing that people may or may not see that will permanently damage your mouth,” she said. “There is no question you will suffer some type of oral trauma or infection from the site. The potential repair is not worth the money it will cost.”


Some pierce their cheeks where their dimples would be. Others choose a bar or ball that sits below the lower lip. A hoop can thread from the outside to the inside of their mouth. No matter where the jewelry is placed, it’s the part that remains on the inside of the mouth that causes most of the damage. The back rubs against the base at the teeth at the gumline, eventually wearing gums away and contributing to bone loss. 


Mandy removed a top lip piercing known as a “smiley” at the TPC office this summer. Although the patient only had it a few years, his bone loss was already visible on X-ray. 


“I asked him, ‘What would keep you from wanting to take this out?’” she said. She’s happy to report he made the decision to have her remove it that day.  


Tongue piercings are no less destructive. Even those who select a plastic adornment often chip their teeth as the item moves with the tongue. 


The act of piercing itself is hazardous. Unsanitary conditions can set a person up for a nasty infection or serious blood-borne diseases.


All oral piercings have a possibility of infections such as candidiasis or thrush, or a cold sore, due to bacteria found in the mouth. 


“People might also subject themselves to a keloid if the area doesn’t heal properly,” Mandy said. 


Even best-case scenario, an oral piercing requires four-to-six weeks to heal. Cleanliness and proper site maintenance are essential.  


Knowing all the dangers, if you decide oral piercing is something you really want, research a reputable place to minimize your risks.

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