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Oral Piercings and Your Health

As your dentist in Portland, City Dental has seen tattoos and piercings of all shapes, sizes, and locations on the citizens of our fair city, and while we love the unique and accepting culture of Portland, there’s one accessory we’re concerned about: oral piercings.

Subjects of concern

Piercing has for centuries and across cultures been a widely accepted form of self-expression or group belonging. However, some types of piercing can clash with dental care. These include piercings to:

  • Tongue
  • Lips
  • Cheeks
  • Uvula (the piece of tissue hanging at the back of your throat)

While eye-catching, these piercings increase the risk of:

  • Infection. While oral tissue is fast healing, it heals fast for a reason: billions of bacteria live in your mouth. Introducing a foreign object by inserting into your oral tissue is an invitation for these bacteria to infect your body.
  • Damage to nerves. Our mouths are a very sensitive area of our body with countless nerve endings, and each is as different as the individual they belong to. When you pierce oral tissue, you could damage these nerves. Sometimes the damage results in temporary numbness, but other times the damage could be a lifelong change in taste or sensation. That’s a big risk for a small accessory.
  • Drooling. Hardware in the mouth often stimulates saliva production, particularly tongue piercings. While it’s true that saliva has anti-cavity properties and is in general part of maintaining a healthy oral environment, it’s also generally accepted that heavy drooling is not considered appropriate.
  • Tooth damage. Introducing new metal objects to your oral cavity via piercing also raises the risk for damaging your teeth– a cracked tooth is a common dental complaint following oral piercing.

Then there are the worst case scenarios

While uncommon, all health professionals– including your dentist in Portland Oregon– worry about the worst case scenarios. After all, it’s our job! Dangerous situations caused by oral piercings include:

  • Infection that leads to swelling. If infection from a piercing arises, the secondary swelling takes place near a very dangerous part of your body– your throat. Excessive swelling could easily compromise or completely cut off the airway.
  • Choking. New hardware clattering around inside the oral cavity could get broken, and cases have been recorded where pieces of a piercing lodged in a patients’ airway, which can lead to asphyxiation!
  • Other diseases. Piercing places you at higher risk for Hepatitis C and other communicable diseases contracted through non-sterile practices.

So you already have a piercing…

Again, like we said– in Portland, piercings aren’t uncommon. And they aren’t the end of the world. But they do require special attention. 

If you have a piercing:

  • Monitor the tightness of your jewelry; this prevents the piece from becoming too loose and dislodging itself.
  • Maintain pristine oral hygiene at all times. Your mouth is more vulnerable to infection with a piercing; it is critical follow a strict schedule of brushing, flossing, and regular visits to your dentist in Portland.
  • Avoid banging or “clicking” your jewelry against your teeth. This will help lessen the risk of tooth cracking.

For more questions about oral piercings, ask us at your next appointment!



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