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What are the risks of jewellery or piercings in the mouth?

Many people have mouth piercings, and they may have more oral health problems because of this. Think twice about getting jewellery or piercings in or around your mouth. The actual puncture can cause an infection which can spread into the bloodstream, possibly infecting the heart and causing endocarditis. Piercings also encourage the build up of bacteria leading to gingivitis and gum disease.

A pierced lip or tongue may look cool, but it can be dangerous to your health. That’s because your mouth contains millions of bacteria, and infection and swelling often occur with mouth piercings.

Piercings can also interfere with speech, chewing or swallowing. That may seem like a mere inconvenience until you consider that they may also cause:

  • Excessive drooling  
  • Infection, pain and swelling 
  • Chipped or cracked teeth
  • Injuries to the gums
  • Damage to fillings
  • Increased saliva flow
  • Hypersensitivity to metals
  • Scar tissue
  • Nerve damage

These harmful effects can happen during the piercing, soon after, or even long after the procedure. If not treated promptly, an infection can quickly become life threatening. For example, oral piercing carries a potential risk of endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart valves or tissues. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the piercing site in the mouth and travel to the heart, where it can colonize on heart abnormalities. This is a risk for people with heart conditions and, in the worst of cases, results in death.

After a piercing the tongue may swell. There have been reports of swelling serious enough to block the airway. And it’s very possible to puncture a nerve during a tongue piercing. If this happens, you may experience a ―numb tongue—nerve damage that is sometimes temporary, but can be permanent. The injured nerve may affect your sense of taste, or how you move your mouth. And damage to the tongue’s blood vessels can cause serious blood loss.

In addition, piercing jewelry can sometimes cause allergic responses to the pierced site. The jewelry can even get in the way of dental care by blocking x-rays. 

Don’t pierce on a whim. The piercing will be an added responsibility to your life, requiring constant attention and upkeep. Talk to your dentist for more information.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.