Oral Piercings


Lindsay Whitlock RDH



  • Body art or oral piercings originally began as a sign of distinction, religious acts and sacrifice.
  • This culture is traced back to the Mayans who pierced their tongues to demonstrate courage and virility.
  • In purification rituals Eskimos, pierced the lips of infants.
  • As passage into puberty Aleuts pierced the mandibular lips of boys.
  • In Southern India, the tongue was pierced with a skewer to take a vow of silence.
  • In history, oral jewelry such as stones, bones, ivory, and adorned wooden disks are used as tribal influence for those in Ethiopia and Brazil (The Perils).
  • In several third world countries body art is still a practiced custom.
  • Today, body art and oral jewelry have become a huge phenomenon in the western culture as a compulsive tendency to be different.



  • Infection, Swelling, Pain: The oral cavity is a damp, warm environment, which houses millions of bacteria. An infection can quickly become life threatening; it’s a possibility for the piercing to cause the tongue to swell, potentially blocking one’s airway.
  • Damage To Gums, Teeth, Fillings: A common habit of biting the oral piercing can injure one’s gums, chip or injure teeth or a filling.
  • Nerve Damage: Following a piercing, one may experience a numb tongue, which is caused by temporary or permanent never damage. The injured nerve may affect how one moves their mouth, and sense of taste. Damage to the tongue’s blood vessels can cause serious loss of blood.
  • Hypersensitivity To Metals: Allergic reactions at the piercing location is common.
  • Excessive Drooling: Oral piercing can greatly increase saliva production
  • Dental Appointment Difficulties: Oral piercings/jewelry can interfere with dental care by blocking X-rays.



  • Contact your dentist or physician immediately if you have any signs of infection—swelling, pain, fever, chills, shaking or a red-streaked appearance around the site of the piercing.
  • Keep the piercing site clean and free of any matter that may collect on the jewelry by using a mouth rinse after every meal.
  • Try to avoid clicking the jewelry against teeth and avoid stress on the piercing. Be gentle and aware of the jewelry’s movement when talking and chewing.
  • Check the tightness of your jewelry periodically (with clean hands). This can help prevent you from swallowing or choking if the jewelry becomes dislodged.
  • When taking part in sports, remove the jewelry and protect your mouth with a mouthguard.
  • See your dentist regularly, and remember to brush twice a day and floss daily.



Works Cited

American Dental Association. Oral Health Topics: Tongue Piercing and Tongue Splitting. Amended. October 2004. Retrieved 30 April 2013. http://www.ada.org/2750.aspx?currentTab=2 Body piercing Statistics. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.statisticbrain.com/body-piercingstatistics Chimenos-Küstner.E. (2003). Appearance and culture: oral pathology associated with certain “fashions” (tattoos, piercings, etc.). retrieved from  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12730654

Ford CA, Bearman PS, Moody J JAMA. Foregone health care among adolescents.1999 Dec 15; 282(23):2227-34. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360944/

Francesco Inchingolo, Marco Tatullo, Fabio M. Abenavoli, Massimo Marrelli, Alessio D.             Inchingolo, Antonio Palladino,Angelo M. Inchingolo, and Gianna Dipalma. Oral            Piercing and Oral Diseases: A Short Time Retrospective Study. Published 2011 October    18. Retrieved 30 April 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3204433/

Kelly Soderlund, ADA News staff. Fewer adults visiting the dentist. Updated 13 March 2013.     Retrieved 30 April 2013. http://www.ada.org/news/8366.aspx

Oral Piercings. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360944/

The Perils of Oral Piercing Retrieved from http://www.rdhmag.com/articles/print/volume- 26/issue-3/feature/the-perils-of-oral-piercing.html

Wilkins, E. M. 2011. Clinical Practice of the Dental Hygienist. Philidelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

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