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California Dental Association Warns of Risks Associated With Oral Piercings

Posted on Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sacramento, Calif. — The California Dental Association recognizes that in today’s 

society, many people use body piercing as a type of self-expression, but warns that oral 

piercings can be dangerous to your health. 


“Most people consider it a low-risk choice, but there are significant risks associated with 

oral piercings,” said CDA President Lindsey Robinson, DDS. “They can interfere with 

speech, chewing or swallowing and often injure the gums, lead to cracked, scratched or 

sensitive teeth, and can damage fillings. Because the mouth is full of bacteria, it’s a difficult 

area to keep clean and infections occur more readily after an oral piercing.” 


Common symptoms after oral piercing include pain, swelling and an increased flow of 

saliva. Although not common, serious infections can occur, such as hepatitis or 

endocarditis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart). For some, blood poisoning, 

metal allergies or blood clots can occur. Additionally, piercers have no standardized 

training and may have limited knowledge of anatomy and physiology. 


“If there’s a blood vessel or nerve in the path of a piercing, severe and difficult-to-control 

bleeding or nerve damage can result,” Robinson said. “Even after an oral piercing has 

healed, the risk of serious damage to teeth and gum tissue posed by the mouth jewelry 

itself still remains.” 


Metal jewelry is often the culprit in cracked or broken teeth and although plastic jewelry 

reduces this risk, it cannot eliminate it entirely. For piercings of the lips, the back side of the 

jewelry attaches inside the mouth and can be a source of irritation to the opposing tissue. 


As the metal or plastic rests on the gum tissue, it can wear away the tissue as it moves back 

and forth — a result that requires reconstructive surgery to repair and in some instances 

results in lost teeth. 


“This happens more commonly than people realize,” Robinson said. “If you have an oral 

piercing, it is important to regularly check the tissues in contact with the metal or plastic to 

ensure the jewelry isn’t causing damage or infection. And it’s essential to discover this 

early in the process.” 


CDA recommends consulting your member dentist before making the decision to pierce. 

When making that decision, CDA suggests being fully informed and committed to 

maintaining your oral health, including brushing with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes, 

twice a day, avoiding sugary drinks like soda, flossing daily and visiting a dentist for a 

complete dental checkup on a regular basis. 


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