Body Piercing and Dental Health

Body Piercing and Dental Health

Body piercing is becoming more and more popular, especially among young people. Types of body piercing that is thought to have destructive effects on the teeth, gums, tongue and lining of the mouth are Lip and Tongue Piercing.

Dr A. Plessas, who is a dentist in private practice in Kielbirnie, North Ayrshire, Scotland and Dr E Pepelassi from the Department of Periodontology, School of Dentistry, The University of Athens, Greece, recently had an article published in the Australian Dental Journal. The article is titled “Dental and periodontal complications of lip and tongue piercing: prevalence and influencing factors” (Australian Dental Journal 2012; 57: 71-78)

Their study was developed in order to determine how common it was for there to be complications of lip and tongue piercings, and what effect a variety of factors had on these complications. They looked at the length of time the piercing was worn, the shape of the ornaments, and whether any habits that the individuals exhibited (such as biting, rolling, stroking or sucking the ornament) had an influence of the complications. One hundred and ten individuals with lip piercings and fifty-one with tongue piercings were involved in the study.

The study listed some of the early complications of piercings as pain, swelling, bleeding and inflammation, typically at the site of the piercing. Also mentioned were the more severe complications of Ludwing’s angina, cerebral abscess, endocarditis, airways obstruction, and the risk of acquiring infections such as hepatitis or HIV.

The list of potential longer-term complications was even longer! These included damage to nearby teeth, abnormal wearing of teeth, gum recession and severe damage to the gum and bone around individual teeth, and cracked tooth syndrome (where deep hairline fracture lines run through a tooth causing significant pain on chewing). Also mentioned were an increased salivary flow, difficulty when chewing or swallowing, speech difficulties, overgrowth of tissues around the ornament including embedding of the ornament in the tongue, swallowing ornaments and allergic reactions. Some people experienced an overgrowth of organisms like Candida Albicans (thrush) around the piercing site. Some individuals even experienced ‘generation of galvanic current’, which is like having a battery in one’s mouth.

The study showed that around one third of teeth located near piercings were cracked, chipped, or showed abnormal wear patterns. It was not surprising to learn that the longer an ornament was worn, the greater was the amount of damage that occurred.

Dentists were advised to record the presence of lip and tongue piercings, and details of the ornaments that were worn, and to include these sites in regular dental checkups.

You can read the article here: