By: Sanjana Mehra, Contributing Writer
Edited by: Olivia Storti, Editor; Eve Nevelos, Editor in Chief
Oral piercings are a very common form of self-expression nowadays. Many adolescents, teenagers and young adults will have their tongue, cheeks, lips or other soft tissue pierced as a form of body art. Some get facial piercings simply because they may feel it enhances their appearance. Although oral piercings can assist is expression and can be considered an art, they have many negative impacts in relation to oral hygiene.
Piercings in the mouth can give you the opportunity to express yourself. They allow you to show your identity rather than saying it. They allow young adults to express their individuality, and in a world where everyone blends together, piercings allow people to stand out. While stereotypes exist that suggest that oral piercings are irresponsible, unprofessional, promiscuous and associated with criminal activity, these are not grounded in truth. Oral piercings are purely a form of expression and a method to make people more prominent. As well as this, people with oral piercings have the option to get creative with what they are wearing. They can choose amongst many different types of piercings that they believe best expresses them. Oral piercings also tend to be more discreet, and can be concealed and kept out of sight. If you wish to keep your personal life away from your professional life, oral piercings given you decide on that specific type, will not be clearly visible to everyone. They also can be easily removed without leaving any permanent scarring which is a benefit in the field of oral health. In most cases, tongue piercings in particular can heal quite quickly with minimal chances of long term impacts on the individuals oral health.
Despite many of the positives in self expression that come with oral piercings and wearing oral jewelrey, the process and outcome can also have many short term and long term negative effects on one’s oral hygiene and overall health. Although in most cases, the healing process is usually the painful part of getting a piercing, as with any incision or wound being made into the tissue, piercings can be quite painful when you are first receiving them. They may cause swelling or infection. On a more risky note, other complications that may arise from oral piercings are increased salivary flow due to oral uncomfort, gingival injury or depreciation (in which the gums are concerned and may have permanent damage) and dental degradation. As well as this, the individual may even face lingual changes. Speech patterns are extremely likely to change since the mouth is not comfortable with or used to the piercing ; and while this usually is resolved over time, certain cases may result in permanent changes and interferences in speech with slurring and mispronunciation. Another impact is issues with mastication (chewing) or deglutition (swallowing) since it becomes slightly more unusual for the tongue to carry out involuntary actions. In rare cases, if, due to irresponsible or unhygienic piercing, the tongues vessels are punctured during the piercing procedure, there may be a result of prolonged bleeding due to the tongues vascular nature. Some individuals may also have allergic reactions, that they weren’t aware of seeing that the oral area is extremely sensitive on that front. There are also certain medical risks that come with oral piercings. Although they are quite unlikely, there is still a chance of them happening in case of the piercing technique being incorrect, the individual being prone to allergy, pre-existing medical conditions, etc. Tongue piercings in particular can increase the risk of getting infections and pathogenic bacteria in one’s mouth. As the metal from the piercing constantly comes in contact with the tissue and the mouth structures, it can cause damage and injury such as chipped teeth and dental pain. Lip piercings in particular can attract and habituate periodontopathogenic bacteria which can be extremely harmful in collective amounts to the oral hygiene and health. Some people tend to opt for jewelry made of synthetic and fake materials such as polypropylene and plastic, since they become the cheaper and more accessible options. When using these instead of steel or titanium jewelry, there is an increased risk of overgrowth and accumulation of bacteria. In certain situations, the accumulation of bacteria can be so severe to the point where the individuals airways are blocked. This can be extremely dangerous. The airway obstruction, although rare, is still a possibility and risk that comes with getting an oral piercing. Next, the materials in oral piercings can impact and compromise dental screenings since they may defect the radiographs, producing incorrect results and therefore, incorrect diagnosis.
Tongue piercings can be objectively attractive, a wonderful form of self-expression, an opportunity to get creative with self expression, and a common stereotype breaker. On the other hand, they can pose a risk to a great deal of damage and long term impacts on one’s oral health. If not done carefully, they can lead to permanent medical damage to the oral health of an individual. They can cause speech and articulation complications, extensive bleeding, swelling, and overall damage to one’s oral health. It is important to know and understand all of the risks that come with oral piercings before getting one.