Growing up in the late 90s and early 00s, a youth like myself would see many trends unfold before their very eyes.
I remember seeing friends all of a sudden wearing Air Force 1s, getting tattoos, owning Tamagotchis, getting frosted tips, and more, though perhaps not all at once.
But among all those “add-ons” was a rise in piercings — lip and tongue piercings to be exact. Maybe it was just specific to my particular circle, but the pop stars, MTV influence, and more seemed to have generated a rise in this body alteration trend that remains prominent today among E-girls and other groups.
In my head, though, I would always equate oral piercings to oral problems (remember that VoiceStream commercial from the early 2000s where two teens kiss and get a piercing stuck in the other’s braces?).
Even back then, I would always think to myself “Wouldn’t a lip ring be harmful to you?”, innocently thinking that a tongue may rot out due to piercing rust or something. Proper oral care is a thing, though, and I’m sure people are responsible enough to keep their oral hygiene up to par.
There are people out there who may not know what risks there are, though. For those interested in getting their lip, tongue, or cheek pierced, it’s worth looking into the effects oral piercings have on oral health.
Many body piercings, when done professionally, pose very little risk. If they are well cared for, a piercing can be a great way to express one’s personality and style. But before taking the plunge on an oral piercing, consider the following ways that an oral piercing might cause damage to teeth, gums, and other parts of the body.
According to an article by WebMD, tongue rings tend to cause chipping in teeth within 4 years of receiving the piercing. This is due in part to wearers biting the jewelry, causing it to lodge between teeth.
Barbell-type piercings, particularly shorter styles, tend to be the major culprit when it comes to cracked and chipped teeth. Tongue piercings aren’t the only body modification that can damage teeth.
Other piercings like vertical labrets, snake bites, Monroes, and or piercings that come in constant contact with gums and teeth can begin to cause damage over time.
Gum and Enamel Damage
One common piercing, known as a “smiley” is known to cause damage to the enamel and gums. This piercing runs through a piece of skin called the frenulum, which connects the upper gum to the upper lip.
Hidden underneath the upper lip, this piercing is rarely visible unless the wearer smiles, which is the origin of its name. As sweet as this piercing sounds, there are some dental health risks associated with it.
Like with many oral piercings, having jewelry inside the mouth can knock against enamel, damaging it gradually over time. This damage can cause sensitivity to hot and cold inside the mouth and around the teeth.
Another risk, as explained by Healthline is irritation to gums. If placed too high in the frenulum, the smiley piercing can rub against the gums when the mouth opens and closes. This irritation causes a condition known as gum recession.
Gum recession occurs when gaps form between the teeth and the gum line. These gaps allow bacteria into the gum, causing swelling and infection, another poor dental hygiene hazard.
Gum recession is one of the most common long-term side effects on dental health from receiving a piercing.
Unfortunately, it’s an issue that worsens gradually and most patients don’t even realize it’s happening until they visit their dentist. If left untreated, gum recession can damage the root of the tooth until it is lost or in need of removal.
According to research by the National Institutes of Health, almost all people who receive an oral or perioral piercing experience painful ulcerations in the first few weeks. For many, this is the end of any immediate discomfort.
The same report, however, found that 10 to 20 percent of cases resulted in infection. Tongue piercings, in particular, left patients at higher risk of staph and strep infections.
As has already been said, oral piercings may cause sensitivity in the teeth, gums, and soft tissues of the mouth.
Even wearers with good intentions may find that attempts to maintain the same level of oral hygiene constantly can be a pain.
Piercings provide not only a physical obstacle between toothbrushes and teeth but also make the act of brushing and flossing just a little more uncomfortable. According to the NIH, these issues can lead to the buildup of gingivitis and plaque near oral jewelry.
Perhaps one of the most uncomfortable side effects of oral piercing is the potential of jewelry becoming embedded in the soft tissue of the mouth. Studies by the American Dental Association have seen several cases in which jewelry becomes embedded in teeth or other tissues.
As the lips and tongue move around while talking, jewelry moves with it. This constant movement creates a lot of contact and consequently, many opportunities to get stuck. It’s important to know, that while this particular issue sounds frightening, it is significantly less common than issues like infections.
Jewelry inside the mouth can also cause issues in regard to trips to the dentist. During x-rays of teeth, jewelry can obstruct the view which may hide problem areas.
Metal jewelry also causes patterns like scattering effects and other distortions. This interference can also make X-rays difficult for dentists and dental hygienists to interpret. One way to mitigate this is by removing body jewelry from the neck before an appointment.
Is it worth it?
Ultimately, body jewelry can be a major form of expression. The art form of oral piercings has been used to convey personal and cultural identity around the world for hundreds of years.
Deciding whether this particular form of piercing is worth the risk is, of course, up to the wearer. If you’re considering getting your lip, tongue, or other areas of the mouth pierced it’s a great idea to consult with a dental professional before making a decision.
Professional dental care advice can help establish a routine that will keep teeth and gums healthy for years to come, either with or without jewelry.
About The Author:
Anne Kamwila is a freelance content writer and a digital marketer. She is passionate about writing health, technology, and business-related guides, news, and books.