Ann Clark, RDH
Although attractive to some, tongue, lip, and cheek piercings have a number of health related risks associated with them. One of the biggest dangers of mouth piercings is the damage to the teeth that can come from bumping or rubbing against the piercing. There is also a fairly high risk of infection to this area from bacteria that can get trapped.
*Infection – Risk of this is increased due to the new wound created. The array of bacteria that live in the mouth plus the addition of bacteria from handling the jewelry.
*Transmission of Disease – Oral piercing poses increased risk of the herpes simplex virus and hepatitis B or C.
*Endocarditis – The piercing site poses risk for mouth bacteria to enter the bloodstream and lead to developing endocarditis–an inflammation of the heart or its valves–in certain people with underlying (many times asymptomatic or undiagnosed) heart issues.
*Nerve Damage/ prolonged bleeding – Numbness or loss of sensation at the piercing site or movement problems can occur if the nerves are damaged. If blood vessels are punctured, prolonged bleeding can occur. Tongue swelling following piercing can be severe enough to block the airway and make breathing difficult.
*Gum Disease – Piercings, especially involving longer jewelry, like barbells, have a greater chance toward this disease. The jewelry can come into contact with gum tissue causing tissue recession, an injury leading to loss of teeth.
*Damage to Teeth – Teeth contacting the jewelry can chip, crack, or wear away. One study from a dental journal reported 47% of barbell wearers for 4+ years had at least one chipped tooth.
*Difficulty in daily functions – tongue piercings can result in problems with swallowing, chewing food, and clear speech. This occurs from the jewelry stimulating an excessive production of saliva. Taste can also be altered.
*Allergic Reaction – We call metal hypersensitivity Allergic Contact Dermatitis, which can occurring in susceptible people.
*Jewelry Aspiration – If jewelry becomes loose in the mouth it poses a possible choking hazard if swallowed causing issue to the digestive tract or lungs.
If oral piercings are still for you, please consider:
-find a recommended studio
-Visit the studio first and ask about hospital-grade autoclaves to sterilize, or use of disposable instruments. Are disposable gloves used?
-Ask to see a health certificate.
-Are instruments kept in sterilized packages?
-Are employees vaccinated against Hep-B?
-Ask many questions, the staff should be willing to respond
WARNING SIGNS!! (Consult your dentist if any of these occur)
-yellow/green discharge (normal is clear or white)
-scarring or thickened tissue build up darkening the piercing site
– an abscess (pimple) at the piercing site
-bleeding or tearing after the piercing
-a resting low-grade fever
Want to learn more? Visit us at
American Dental Association: “Oral Piercing and Health”
Academy of General Dentistry: “What is oral piercing”