Ask A Periodontist: Dental Problems Associated With Oral (Tongue And Lip) Piercings

Posted by on May 8, 2019

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Submitted by: Karl A. Smith, DDS, MS

Oral piercings of the tongue and lip in order to wear jewelry have become quite popular during the past 10 or 15 years, but wearing of tongue studs or lip rings and other ornaments attached to the mouth area can pose dental problems. Knowing what kinds of problems to anticipate and how to avoid the various types of dental trouble associated with tongue piercings and other kinds of oral piercings can help you maintain better health or make more informed decisions before choosing a particular type of piercing or jewelry.

Most people think in terms of the pierced area of the lip or the tongue when asked about how piercings might have a bad impact on oral health, but they do not realize that there is another problem that is usually even more prevalent. That s because one of the biggest risks to dental health involving piercings and wearing of jewelry like bars, studs, and rinks is that the jewelry itself can tap against a tooth and weaken or break it. Having a chunk of metal constantly rubbing, bumping, or colliding with a tooth can have an acute impact such as a sudden chip, crack, or break. Or it can have a more long-term and insidious kind of effect on the tooth, gradually wearing away at the surface of the enamel until the tooth is so weak it caves in, decays, or fractures.

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That is when the real trouble starts, because as soon as the hard outer layer of the tooth in other words, the protective exterior shield and enamel that guards the inner core of each tooth is penetrated or cracked, your dental health defenses are compromised. Beyond that hard surface is sensitive pulpy tissue, blood vessels, and nerves. Once they are even exposed to something as benign as air and saliva they can start to hurt, swell, and cause discomfort. But what typically happens is that those tender areas inside the tooth get attacked by toxic bacteria. The bacteria creates an infection, and along with the infection comes fever, swelling, inflammation of tissue, and the terrific pain of having a nerve surrounded by diseased pulp. Since the blood supply to the tooth is located in that same area, the disease can travel along the blood vessels and spread quickly to adjacent areas such as the jaw. Root canal surgery which is a serious dental procedure that is both expensive and uncomfortable is just one of the many outcomes of having the protective layer of the tooth damaged by tongue or lip jewelry.

To avoid those kinds of issues, tongue and lip jewelry should be positioned and worn in such a way that they cannot bump against the teeth. During normal use the jewelry should never contact the teeth or interfere with the bite. To ensure that this is the case, it is recommended that only smaller pieces of jewelry be worn. Lip jewelry should not be able to rotate around inside the lip, where it could come in contact with the teeth and gums and cause abrasive action, tearing or cutting of tissue, or chipping and cracking of tooth enamel.

Always use surgical grade stainless steel, titanium, 14-karat gold or other appropriate types of jewelry to avoid problems associated with lesser quality metals. Keep the teeth and gums properly cleaned and maintained and make sure to schedule routine visits to your dentist so that he or she can keep an eye on your oral health and make sure that oral ornamentation does not compromise dental health.

About the Author: Dr. Karl Smith has been in dental practice for over twenty-seven years. His specialties are

periodontics, dental anesthesia and implants

. People come from near and far to experience the comfort and professionalism of his office and patient-oriented staff.


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Last modified on May 8, 2019

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