Tongue Rings and Teeth: How Oral Piercings Affect Your Mouth

In recent years, oral piercings have become more and more popular, especially among young people. If you want to pierce your lip, tongue, or any other area of your mouth, consider the effect it will have on your oral health.

Types of Oral Piercings

You may be surprised by the number of places people may choose to pierce in and around their mouths. Here are the most common types of oral piercings:

  • Dorsoventral tongue piercing: This is the most common type of piercing. Jewelry inserts through the top (dorsal) to the bottom (ventral) portion of the tongue. Studs hold it in place.
  • Dorsolateral tongue piercing: Jewelry inserts through the width of the tongue. Barbell studs hold the jewelry in place.
  • Lip piercing: Jewelry penetrates anywhere on the lip, but the middle and corners of the bottom lip are the most popular.
  • Cheek piercing: Also known as “dimples,” these piercings sit in the middle of the cheek. Two barbell studs hold them in place.
  • Web piercing: Jewelry rests on the frenum, or small fold of mucus membrane that extends underneath the tongue or over the top teeth.
  • Uvula piercing: The least common piercing area. A barbell pierces the uvula, the flap of connective tissue that hangs at the back of the throat.

Effects of Oral Piercings

With any tongue, lip, or other mouth piercing, a piece of foreign metal has a permanent place in your mouth. This metal can cause a number of health problems, ranging from mild to serious:
Bad Breath
With mouth jewelry, plaque get a new place to hide. It’s harder to brush around studs in the tongue or rings in the lips, so plaque can build up over time. If you don’t clean your oral piercing regularly, your breath can start to stink as a result.
Mouth piercings increase saliva production. Saliva does help fight cavities, but it can also increase your likelihood of drooling.
Infection, Pain, and Swelling
Even if you get oral piercings in a sterile environment, you can develop an infection after the piercing. Your mouth is moist, which breeds bacteria and makes it an ideal place for infection. Watch for swelling, since your tongue can potentially block your airway and make it difficult to breathe. Consult a doctor if you have any irritation at the piercing site.
Dental Appointment Difficulties
Since mouth jewelry is made of metal, it can interfere with x-rays. Tell your dentist about your oral piercing before your appointment so he or she can make any necessary adjustments.
Chipped Teeth
Most people who have lip or tongue piercings succumb to the temptation of biting or playing with the jewelry. A hard piece of metal in your mouth makes you more susceptible to chipped or scratched teeth.
Damaged Dental Work
The metal in a piercing can also damage expensive dental work in your mouth. Piercings can knock out fillings, damage braces, and displace crowns and bridges.
Worn Teeth
If you develop a habit of rubbing your mouth jewelry against your teeth, you may wear away your enamel over time. You may also have increased risk of cavities and tooth sensitivity.
Crooked Teeth
Although this symptom isn’t common, tongue piercings can cause you to develop a gap between your front two teeth. This condition is called a diastema.
Receding Gums
As many as 35% of people ( who have had tongue piercings for four years or longer experience receding gums. The movement of the piercing against the gums caused the gums to recede, exposing the dentin underneath. Tongue piercings tend to damage gums behind the front lower teeth, while lip piercings affect gums in front of the lower teeth.
If you allow gum damage to develop unchecked, it can turn into periodontitis. This condition occurs when the inner layer of the gums and bone pull away from the teeth. The resulting pockets can cause teeth to come loose and even fall out.
Nerve Damage
Occasionally a piercing can cause the tongue to feel numb. Most of the time the numbness is temporary, but it can also be permanent. A numbed tongue can affect your sense of taste and your ability to speak correctly. To avoid nerve damage, choose a competent, reputable piercing parlor.

What to Do if You Choose Oral Piercings

If you decide to have your mouth pierced or you choose to keep an oral piercing, know that you must pay more attention to your mouth than you would otherwise. Talk to your local dentist about whether you should schedule more frequent checkups. You may need to visit the dentist three or four times a year to make sure you don’t develop permanent damage.

Be sure to keep the piercing site clean from food or other debris. Maintain healthy oral hygiene habits by brushing and flossing daily. Avoid playing with your piercing against your teeth or gums. Contact your doctor or dentist immediately if you notice any signs of infection.

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