3 Main Risks of Oral Piercing & Safety Measures
Today, people are getting piercings on all parts of their bodies - literally. Oral piercing, among others went mainstream. According to one survey, 16% of the females and 4% of the males at a New York university had pierced tongues. The practice of oral piercing itself doesn't appear to be any more risky than getting an ear pierced. However, if you're going for a hole in your tongue for example, you need to be aware of what can go wrong. Apart from all those committed and real professionals in this art, there are also some unsafe, unethical, and uneducated piercers who may provide you a good service at the end (it's usually just matter of your personal luck), but many times a lot of things can simply go wrong. Therefore, it is up to every individual who decides to get an oral piercing to collect required information, so the risks of piercing can be truly controlled. Below, there are 3 main sets of risks related to the oral piercing outlined and accompanied by respective safety measures as well as general guidelines enabling safe piercing.
1.Safety procedure, materials used and piercing placement
When properly performed, the piercing procedure itself takes only a few seconds, involves minimal discomfort and often no blood. Healing usually lasts one to two months and is commonly rapid and uneventful. First thing an individual must ensure prior to getting a piercing is to find a reliable and professional piercer. Simple rule should be applied at this point: enquire and get as much information as possible. There is a lot of information on the web, talk to your friends who have already gone through the same process, ask for experience. If you ask enough questions you should be able to get a lot of useful recommendations. Then next step involves visiting number of preselected piercing studios. One should look if a studio has relevant health certificates and clean/hygienic appearance - especially in the area where the piercing is done. Next point would be type of equipment and instruments they are using, as well as disposable materials (needles, gloves, studs, hoops) which should be kept under strictly sterilized conditions. Furthermore, all staff members working in a studio should be vaccinated against hepatitis B, and possess required working licenses and permits. Professional practitioners are usually providing you both verbal and written instructions on the whole procedure prior the piercing actually takes place. However, they should be also available for follow-up and questions post-piercing, so any developing problems can be resolved before damage occurs.
Important issue for discussion is related to jewelry. Do you know that, there is potential hypersensitivity skin reaction on the jewelry? It is called allergic contact or dermatitis and can occur in susceptible people as a reaction to the metal in the jewelry. Furthermore, jewelry that becomes loose in the mouth can become a choking hazard and, if swallowed, can result in injury to the digestive track or lungs. Therefore it is advisable to pay attention to following facts:
- Selected jewelry must be of appropriate shape, size and style for the anatomy of area where it is to be applied. For example the longer jewelry allowing initial swelling must be replaced with a shorter piece after swelling has dissipated to reduce the chance of harm to the teeth and oral structures.
- Acrylic balls rather than metal ones can be worn on tongue barbells to minimize the risk of damage to the teeth.
- It is highly advisable to get surgical implant grade jewelry (refer to the accepted APP Minimum Jewelry Standards for detailed information on material and design specifications).
- Check that threaded ends and tighten them regularly (on daily basis) to insure that jewelry stays in place.
- In order to reduce jewelry contact with the sublingual portion of the oral cavity, it is better to wear a smaller ball on the underside of the tongue.
- Last, but not least, try to avoid playing with your new jewelry, as this is often the most frequent cause of tooth and gum damage.
The potential for intra-oral damage from piercings can be furthermore dramatically reduced by proper placement of your new jewelry.
Some suggestions on traditional placement for a tongue piercing:
- Along the midline of the tongue (basically in the center of the mouth).
- Approximately 3/4″ back from the tip of the tongue.
- Commonly placed with the top a little further back than the bottom (this allows the top of the jewelry to lean slightly back, away from the teeth, and toward the higher part of the upper palate where there is more room in the mouth).
- Position in front of the attachment of the lingual frenulum (web under the tongue).
Suggestions on traditional placement for a lip and cheek piercings:
- Make sure that jewelry rests in a neutral spot inside the mouth.
- Do not position cheek piercings further back than the first molars in order to avoid parotid glands and ducts.
- Jewelry should be placed relatively upright, so it does not sit at a sharp angle.
- Post should be shortened to fit snugly once healing is done to minimize contact of jewelry with the teeth and gums.
- A disc backing inside the mouth should not catch on the gums when speaking or eating.
- Use a strong light to check if selected placement enables regular vascularity and enervation.
2. Potential for damage to teeth and oral structures
You should be aware of the fact that oral piercing can cause a serious nerve damage and periodontal disease. If we talk about nerve damage, there is potential loss of sensations (numbness) involved due to mistakes in oral piercing. Also, piercing can result in puncture of blood vessels causing a prolonged bleeding. Teeth that come into contact with mouth jewelry can be seriously damaged. One study in a dental journal reported that 47% of people wearing barbell tongue jewelry for 4 or more years had at least one chipped tooth. Damage inside mouth is also reported with regards to fracture of some crowns type made of porcelain or porcelain and metal. In order to prevent this issue, some dentists recommend using acrylic balls or barbells, rather than metal ones. Also, there is huge population of oral piercing holders who enjoy playing with a barbell or chewing it. Try to avoid this habit as much as possible, as this is one of sure ways to crack your teeth. The oral piercing jewelry (mostly barbells) can come into contact with gum tissue causing injury as well as a recession of the gum tissue, which can lead to loose teeth and tooth loss. Therefore, gums inside the front of the mouth are more likely to recede if the tongue is pierced.
3. Risk of infection
This is often called the body piercings' dark side. Generally speaking, infections from dirty puncture wounds now happen in one out of every five piercings, causing sometimes (although rarely) even fatal results. Easier cases lead to chipped teeth, difficulty eating, and difficulty speaking clearly. It is not uncommon for the tongue to swell up for several days after the piercing procedure. If a tongue swelling is severe it can result in blocking the airway and making breathing difficult. Some persons reported that afterwards piercing they had to "learn to talk all over again, especially Ss and Ts." This is because the jewelry stimulates an excessive production of saliva. Temporary or permanent drooling is another consequence of increased saliva production. Taste can also be altered. The reasons for infection occurring is the vast amount of bacteria residing in the mouth, followed by the introduction of additional bacteria from handling the jewelry. Furthermore, there is high risk for the transmission of herpes simplex virus and hepatitis B and C. One additional health risk caused by infection is development of endocarditis (case when bacteria enter the bloodstream). Endocarditis is an inflammation of the heart or its valves, especially critical to people prone to heart problems. In order to prevent these numerous hazards caused by infection, make sure you choose the right piercing professional (refer to point #1). Furthermore, it is advisable in the post-piercing period to avoid sharing plates, cups, and eating utensils. Also, you should get a new soft-bristled toothbrush and keep it clean. Using a mount wash liquid after food intake and drinking is also required. If temporary swelling occurs, it is useful to use small pieces of ice to dissolve in the mouth, or simply go to a pharmacy and get a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
These tips altogether should help you enjoy your new jewelry and new look in a "risk free mode".