By Vishant Nath DMD
Body piercing is often used as a way of self-expression, especially during adolescence. All types of piercings can have an effect on overall health. Oral piercings, in particular can be especially dangerous. Regardless of how you feel about the societal significance of oral piercings, there are real health risks associated with them that should be considered. This article will discuss these risks.
Oral piercings most often involve the tongue (most common), lips and cheeks. There are two distinct aspects to the dangers involved. The first is when the piercing is initially performed. Oftentimes, these piercings are performed in unregulated piercing parlors, using unregulated piercing techniques. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has identified this type of situation as a vector for disease transmission including hepatitis, tetanus and tuberculosis, and as a possible cause of bacterial endocarditis in susceptible individuals. Oral piercing is a route of entry of bacteria into the bloodstream and may lead to endocarditis with cardiac abnormalities. Even administering appropriate antibiotics may not prevent infection, as the bacteria may continue to seed the bloodstream through the open wound long after the clearance of the bacteria. So simply by putting yourself in such an establishment you are accepting the risk of these types of diseases.
Even if an oral piercing is performed under ideal conditions, there are still many risks associated with them. These risks include some obvious side effects, such as pain and infection. But the risks go beyond this to include scar formation, tooth fractures, metal hyper-senstivity reactions, localized periodontal disease, speech impediment and nerve damage.
Needless to say, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry strongly opposes the practice of oral piercing.
The bottom line is that there are many ways to exhibit self-expression without putting your health at risk. If oral piercing is something that you are strongly interested in considering, educate yourself about the proper techniques that should be utilized, and what you should do to prevent some of the above side effects from occurring. Talk to your dentist about the symptoms to look out for and how best to prevent health risks from occurring. Of course, the best way to prevent these risks is to avoid oral piercings altogether.