Body piercing has become a popular form of self-expression, especially for but not limited to young adults. Oral piercing is becoming trendier but is not without risks and complications. The tongue is the most common site with the lips, uvula (soft tissue hanging from the back of the palate), cheeks and a combination of these sites also being utilized. If you absolutely can’t live without participating in this trend, be sure the procedure is performed by qualified professionals who use disposable gloves, disposable or sterile instruments and sterilized jewelry. For several days after the piercing, you can expect swelling, pain, increased salivary flow and sometimes infection. There may be prolonged bleeding from punctured blood vessels.
The healing period is usually 3-6 weeks before the permanent device (hoops, studs, barbells) can be placed. During the healing stage, avoid spicy foods, alcohol and smoking. Use antiseptic or warm salt water mouth rinses; keep talking to a minimum for the first few days; and refrain from French kissing and oral sex for at least 2 weeks to minimize infection risk. Complications arising from oral piercing include chipped teeth, allergic reactions, change in the way your food tastes from interfering with taste buds and problems with speech, chewing and/or swallowing. After healing and to minimize complications, people should remove their jewelry once a day for cleaning and irrigate the hole with water. For those with tongue piercing, the tongue should be brushed every day. Proper care or removal should be taken during strenuous, contact sports.
The tongue piercing, which involves placing a “barbell”-type stud through the tongue puts people at risk for chipped teeth, recessed gums, and nerve damage, warns the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). However, most people don’t realize that getting an oral piercing also places them at risk for developing a fatal infection or, in some cases, a mini-tongue, according to a report in the January/February 2006 issue of General Dentistry, the AGD’s clinical, peer-reviewed journal.
Unclean piercing equipment can cause other infections, such as blood-born hepatitis. Also, if a patient is not instructed to avoid touching the piercing, they might spread infections with their own fingers. Piercings in the mouth have some specific additional risks, according to the American Dental Association.
If you do experience continued discomfort or sense that you are not healing please contact your dentist or physician and get it checked out. As always, if my office can be of assistance do not hesitate to contact us for an appointment.
Novy Scheinfeld, DDS, PC
290 Carpenter Drive, 200A
Atlanta (Sandy Springs), GA 30328
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