Oral piercings of the tongue, lips, and cheeks are growing in popularity and acceptance, and are considered a way to express ones personality in an art form like tattoos. However, did you know the human bite can be more “toxic” than an animal bite? Keeping this in mind, imagine what could happen to your mouth with oral piercings that collect additional food and debris (that breed bacteria and germs) while banging against your teeth over 1500 times a day when you swallow…

The risks are numerous and oral piercings have the potential to wreak havoc on your teeth and gums:

• When piercing the mouth, especially the tongue, you’re opening the mucosa to bacteria that can lead to some pretty nasty infections.
• Long stem barbells can chip or break teeth, wear away enamel, or cause your teeth to become non-vital and require root canals or even extraction of a fractured tooth.
• Oral piercings also contribute to gum recession when different types of piercing continually comes in contact with the gum area.

At Papandreas Orthodontics, we would like parents and patients to consider the long term ramifications that can arise from oral piercings. Is it really worth it? As dental professionals in the field of orthodontics, our job is to inform and make recommendations for healthy long term dental care. Not only is infection and damage to teeth a huge factor, oral piercings also have an effect on tooth movement when rings and barbells are continually hitting teeth with talking, eating, and swallowing.

In a study conducted by Loma Linda University School of Dentistry and Ohio State University College of Dentistry in March 2002, researchers tracked 52 young adults with tongue piercings and found evidence of gum recession in 35 percent with piercings for four or more years. This was reported in the Journal of Periodontology. Half of those studied wore long-stemmed barbells for two or more years when damage was reported. Nearly half who wore barbell oral jewelry chipped teeth as a result of the jewelry.

Lip rings are a problem also. They wear a groove into a tooth because of the constant movement against the tooth when talking, eating, and constantly playing with the ring with their tongue.

We highly recommend thinking twice before considering oral piercing, or if you do have oral piercings, removing them now to prevent further damage. If you must express yourself with piercings and you have parental approval, consider other parts of the body where long term affects are not as damaging to the body or as easily accessible to infection. Plus, consider the cost to repair the damage to chipped or broken teeth and gum recession. It can be very expensive. Do the math… Is it worth it?