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Oral Piercings: What You Should Know

An oral (mouth) piercing is a small hole in your tongue, lip, cheek, or uvula (the tiny tissue at the back of your throat) so you can wear jewellery. It’s a way to express your style, but it can be dangerous. Your mouth is filled with bacteria that can lead to infection and swelling.The jewellery can cause issues as well. It can break off in your mouth and make you choke. Or you can chip your teeth on it while you eat, sleep, talk, or chew on it. If the break goes deep into the root of your tooth, you may need a root canal and repair the tooth, or in some cases, the tooth may be unrepairable and require an extraction.

Mouth piercings also may:

  • Make it hard to speak, chew, or swallow
  • Damage your tongue, gums, or fillings.
  • Lead to serious health problems, like uncontrolled bleeding, long-term infection, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C (if the needle wasn’t properly cleaning and disinfected.)
  • Lead to an allergic reaction to the metal in the jewellery

Because of these risks, the American Dental Association warns against oral piercings.

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, haemophilia, and some 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 they were 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 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

Depending on where the piercing is, healing and home care recommendation may vary. Be sure to ask questions, and follow the advice your piercer gives you.

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, see a healthcare provider. Also, get help if you just feel that something isn’t right.