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What you and your teen need to know about oral piercings


Teens look to oral piercing as an awesome form of self-expression. However, the medical community almost unanimously views it as a dangerous practice. Here’s why.

Piercings promote dental problems

Any puncture of the tongue, lip, cheek, and uvula (the tiny tissue that hangs at the back of the throat) is considered an oral piercing. Oral piercings can interfere with common daily acts such as speaking, chewing, and swallowing. According to the American Dental Association, these piercings may also cause:

  • Pain and swelling — In some cases, the tongue can swell large enough to block the airway.
  • Excessive drooling — Caused by increased saliva production.
  • Nerve damage — The injured nerve may affect your sense of taste or how you move your mouth.
  • Wear and tear of the mouth — A common habit of biting or playing with the piercing can injure your gums and lead to damaged teeth and fillings. Jewelry rubbing against tissues can also cause gums to recede.
  • Infection — This can occur at the piercing site. In extreme cases, piercings can cause infection to heart tissue due to bacteria entering the bloodstream.

Proceed with caution

If your teen is still interested in an oral piercing after weighing the risks, discuss the procedure with your pediatric dentist or medical professional. You will also need to take special care to avoid future problems at the piercing site.

  • Once the piercing site heals, remove your jewelry each time you eat or sleep to protect your teeth.
  • Avoid clicking the jewelry against teeth and avoid stress on the piercing. Be gentle and aware of the jewelry’s movement when talking and chewing.
  • Many piercing parlors provide “plugs” to sleep in to protect the hole from closing while protecting your teeth at the same time.
  • Remove your jewelry every time you brush your teeth and always brush your tongue.
  • Use an antiseptic mouthwash after every meal.
  • Remove jewelry during any strenuous activity to avoid injury to your teeth.
  • Take your teen to the dentist regularly, and ask him to brush twice a day and floss daily.

Contact your dentist or physician immediately if your teen shows signs of infection at the site. The best option is to consider removing mouth jewelry before it causes a problem.

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