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Dental health and oral piercings

Oral piercings have been growing in popularity in recent years.

Tongue studs, tongue splitting and piercings to the lips and cheek are popular fashion statements, particularly among teenagers and young people. But what about their effect on health?

Experts say the practice is accompanied by a number of risks, including infections and damage to teeth and gums.

A popular form of self-expression

Research carried out in 2016 by the Oral Health Foundation found that tongue piercing led in the oral piercing popularity stakes. Among 214 people questioned about their piercings:

  • 43% had opted for a tongue piercing
  • 33% had a lip piercing
  • 7% had a gum piercing and 3% a cheek piercing

The poll also revealed that 13% of those quizzed had multiple piercings.

Tooth damage

It is possible you might crack a tooth if you bite down hard on your tongue stud. Jewellery worn on the tongue following piercing can also lead to chipped teeth if it wears away tooth enamel.

A 2005 study of 50 patients published in the British Dental Journal found that chipped teeth, most commonly associated with tongue piercings, was the most common problem, while receding gums was seen as a problem caused by lip piercings.

For all these reasons the British Dental Association recommends avoiding having oral piercings. It warns that people may also encounter problems with chewing, swallowing and speech.

For people who have already had an oral piercing, the Oral Health Foundation recommends using an antiseptic mouthwash to help keep the area clean.

"Try to avoid playing or fiddling with it and having it come into contact with teeth, especially when speaking or eating as this leads to teeth wear which can lead to extensive dental intervention," says Dr Carter. "If you are taking part in sports remove the jewellery to minimise the risk of any damage through trauma."

The British Dental Association recommends that people should monitor their piercings for any sign of infection or other complication and make sure they see their dentist regularly.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on August 29, 2016

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