Piercings have come a long way. From getting them done for the sake of culture and tradition to using it as a form of self-expression, bodily piercings are something that will never go out of style. Oral piercing or mouth piercing is actually, a small hole in your tongue, lip, cheek, or uvula which is done to wear jewellery.

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Apart from the edgy look they add to your physical appearance, oral piercings can negatively impact your health in various ways. Your mouth contains millions of bacteria, making oral piercings a trigger for swelling and infections. From interfering with speaking and swallowing to causing excessive bleeding from an accidental piercing of a blood vessel or artery, oral piercings are something that has to be given critical attention on.

Studies and medical experts point out that, oral infections do not just cause minor infections but severe ones such as endocarditis, nerve damage etc. Let’s take a look at the ways oral infections can be dangerous to your overall health.

Infection

When you get yourself pierced, a wound is formed on your body. With the piercing being an oral one, the risk of infections is high because of the vast amount of bacteria in the mouth. Apart from this, the jewellery placed in the pierced area is a foreign object, which adds on to the level of bacteria which cause infections.

As your mouth has a moist environment, it becomes an ideal place for infections and thereby, causes your tongue to swell, potentially blocking your airway. It can also severe pain. 

Endocarditis

It is a type of infection affecting the endocardium, which is the inner lining of your heart chambers and heart valves. Endocarditis occurs when the germs from your mouth spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart . The wound created by the piercing could lead to the bacteria entering the bloodstream and cause an inflammation of the heart or its valves. 

Gum disease

One of the other complications of oral piercing is gum disease. It is increasingly found in individuals with tongue piercings. The piercing jewellery when coming into contact with the gum tissue will cause an injury and cause recession of the gum tissue. Consequently, it can lead to loose teeth and tooth loss. 

Nerve damage

Oral piercing can cause numbness or loss of sensation at the site of the piercing. In the case of tongue piercings, movement restriction can also occur . It also increases the risk of puncturing of blood vessels, thereby causing prolonged bleeding, loss of sensation and swelling of the tongue. With the nerve being damaged, the salivary flow will be increasingly stimulated and causes permanent drooling . 

Transmission of diseases

Studies point out that, oral piercings possess the risk of causing the transmission of herpes simplex virus and hepatitis B and C. Usage of non-sterile equipment by the piercer can increase the risk of HIV as well. 

Teeth damage

Cracking or chipping of teeth is common in individuals with oral piercing. According to a study, 47 per cent of individuals with tongue jewellery for 4 years or more had at least one chipped tooth.

Because of these risks, the American Dental Association warns against oral piercings. You especially shouldn’t get one if you have a job or do things that would make it more likely to cause you trouble.

People with certain conditions that might make it hard for the piercing to heal are particularly at risk for health problems. Those include heart disease, diabetes, hemophilia and autoimmune diseases.

Safety

If you’ve decided to get an oral piercing, make sure you’re up to date on vaccines for hepatitis B and tetanus.

Pick a piercing shop that appears clean and well run. Look for a piercer who has a license, which means he was specially trained. The piercer should wash his hands with germ-killing soap, wear fresh disposable gloves, and use sterilized tools or ones that are thrown away after one use.

You’ll want to make sure that:

  • The piercer is happy to answer your questions
  • The people who work in the shop have been vaccinated against Hepatitis B (It’s fine to ask.)
  • The shop doesn’t use a piercing gun
  • The needle is new and has never been used
  • The needle is placed in a sealed container after it’s used
  • Jewellery is made of surgical steel, solid gold, or platinum

Take Care of Your Piercing

Once you leave the shop, you’ll need to make sure your piercing heals and doesn’t get infected. Healing usually takes 3 to 4 weeks. During that time, you should:

  • Rinse your tongue or lip piercing after every meal or snack and before bed. Use warm salt water or an antibacterial, alcohol-free mouthwash.
  • Not kiss anyone while you heal (avoid contact with someone else’s saliva)
  • Not share cups, plates, forks, knives, or spoons
  • Eat small bites of healthy food
  • Not eat spicy, salty, or acidic foods and drinks
  • Not have hot drinks, like coffee, tea, or hot chocolate

While it heals, you should be able to remove the jewellery for short periods of time without the hole closing. If you get a tongue piercing, the piercer will start with a larger “barbell” to give your tongue room to heal as it swells. After the swelling goes down, dentists recommend you replace the large barbell with a smaller one that’s less likely to bother your teeth.

After your tongue has healed, take the jewellery out every night and brush it like you brush your teeth. You might want to take it out before you go to sleep or do anything active.

When to Get Help

You can expect short-term symptoms like pain, swelling, and extra saliva.

Watch out for signs of infection such as:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Lots of Bleeding
  • Discharge
  • A Bad Smell
  • Rash
  • Fever

If you have any of these, consult a doctor. Also, get help if you just feel that something isn’t right.