While lip, tongue, and cheek piercings are a cool way to express your personal style, they can have a negative impact on your oral health. Because of the damage they can do to teeth and gums, oral piercings are generally not recommended by dentists. However, here are a few things you can do to minimize the harm caused by mouth piercings if you choose to get them.
Follow Aftercare Instructions to the Letter
Failure to take care of piercings after getting them can lead to infection, which in turn can cause damage to the gums. An oral infection can provoke the onset of periodontal disease and cause the loss of gum tissue, bone, and teeth.
Since the mouth is a hotbed of bacteria, you'll need to take special care with your oral hygiene until the piercing heals completely. You should receive instructions when you get your piercing. In general, though, you should:
- Brush your teeth and rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash after every meal
- Use a brand new, soft-bristled toothbrush and store away from other brushes to avoid cross-contamination
- Floss at least once per day to get rid of plaque that causes gum disease
- Brush your tongue and the jewel and rinse thoroughly if you have a tongue piecing
- Always wash your hands before touching the piercing and avoid playing with it
- Gently wash cheek and lip piercings and thoroughly dry them at least once per day
Following these instructions will keep the amount of bacteria in your mouth to a minimum and help you avoid a dangerous infection.
Watch the Placement of Piercings
The problem with oral piercings is where they are positioned in or around the mouth. Lip and cheek piercings are typically placed in areas where they rub against the gums, which can cause irritation and lead to receding over time. Tongue piercings may rub against the back of teeth. If the piercing is placed too far forward in the mouth, the person may bite down on the jewel while eating or talking, leading to chips in the teeth and erosion of the enamel.
When getting piercings, be conscious of where the jewels are placed. For instance, place a tongue piercing farther back in the mouth where it won't accidentally come in contact with teeth. Along those same lines, avoid playing with jewelry (e.g. purposefully rubbing it against teeth). This may be a difficult habit to break, but your oral health is worth the effort.
Pick the Right Oral Jewelry
Some types of oral jewelry are safer to use than others. In particular, you should avoid using metals in or around the mouth because their hardness increases the risk of scraping the gums and teeth. Instead, go for softer or less abrasive materials such as acrylic, bioplast, plastic, or silicone.
Additionally, the shorter and smaller the jewel, the better it is for your oral health. Piercing your tongue with long barbells, for instance, simply makes it that much easier for the jewel to make contact with teeth. A study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that 50 percent of the people involved in the study who had long-stemmed barbells were more likely to have receding gums, something that can lead to tooth loss.
Work with the piercing professional to choose the shortest jewelry necessary to achieve the effect you want.
Get Regular Checkups
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself when you get oral piercings is to get regular checkups from a dentist. Early detection of oral health issues is necessary to avoid some of the long-term damage piercings can cause. For most people, seeing a dentist once or twice per year is enough. However, you may want to go more frequently if you've had problems with your teeth in the past (e.g. cavities), smoke, have diabetes or heart disease, or are prone to bacterial infections.
For more recommendations on preventing damage from oral piercings, contact a dentist in your area, such as Joe Rosenberg, DDS.