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Are Oral Piercings Dangerous?

Are Oral Piercings Dangerous?

Body modifications such as tattoos and piercings seem to be popular forms of self-expression, but, given how important oral health is to overall health, are there any dangers someone thinking about getting an oral piercing should consider?

What are the potential issues or health risks someone considering an oral piercing should know about, or someone who already has a piercing should watch out for?

We asked dentists for their opinions. Here’s what they had to say:

I am not a fan of oral piercings. The immediate risk is that of infection following the piercing. It is possible to get a serious infection and a difficult swelling that can land you in the hospital.

I have not seen anyone with a tongue piercing that hasn’t chipped a tooth. Some chips were small but I have had a few that fractured off a large portion of the tooth requiring a crown. If you don’t have a chipped tooth it just hasn’t happened yet.

I have patients that pierced their lower lip, the stud inside the lip rubs the gum tissue of the lower front teeth. This is traumatic to the tissue and causes it to recede. As the gum recedes the bone supporting the tooth does as well. Those teeth can get loose and be lost. At the very least the gum recedes causing sensitivity on the root making it more susceptible to root cavities and possibly needing a surgery to replace the lost gum tissue.

Teeth help you bite into and chew your food, they help you pronounce words properly, and most importantly to many of you, they are linked to self-esteem. People notice nice teeth, they also notice broken or missing teeth. Pierce your ears or something else, please.

Cynthia M. Sachs, DDS – Rockford, IL

Oral piercings such as lip rings, tongue studs, gum piercings, and any other piercing associated with the mouth seem to be a popular trend today. You may or may not find this form of expression appealing, no matter, there are many risks associated with these piercings. The short-term risks of such piercings include infection. As with any piercing, the process includes creating a wound, which is highly susceptible to infection. The oral cavity harbors billions of bacteria, some of which are good and important in digestion and immune protection, while others are harmful and can cause tooth decay and gum disease. When a wound is created, for example from an oral piercing, this can create a perfect environment for some of the harmful bacteria, creating an infection. Now one thing that is important to consider is that the mouth is the first point of entrance into the body. If there is an infection in the oral cavity, the bacteria from that infection will naturally be swallowed, thereby potentially spreading that infection throughout the body. While serious infections caused by oral piercings are rare, there have been cases of life-threatening infections such as heart infections called bacterial endocarditis.1 It is very important if you have an oral piercing to make sure you are up to date with your hepatitis B and tetanus vaccination, and to keep the oral piercing clean.

In addition to the short-term risks, there are many long-term risks and consequences of oral piercings. Oral piercings, such as tongue and lip piercings, come into constant contact with the teeth and gums. This constant contact causes wear and chipping of teeth as well as gum recession. This gum recession can cause teeth sensitivity and increase the risk for cavities. Another risk of oral piercings is swallowing or aspiration into the lungs. If the piercing were to break, this creates a choking risk or a risk of the piercing going into the lungs. In the event that the piercing were to be aspirated into the lungs, a surgery would be necessary to retrieve it.

Though oral piercings appear to be a popular trend, there are a number of risks associated with them. Before considering such form of expression, it is important to think about the potential time and money that may be necessary to repair the damage caused to teeth and gums. It may be helpful to talk to your dentist before making the decision. If you already have an oral piercing, it would be a good idea to visit your dentist to see if it has caused any damage to your teeth or gums.

Ryan S. Kinn, DMD – Fostoria, OH

Oral piercings are usually made out of a metal or a hard acrylic. Either way, it is easy to accidentally get the ball stuck between your teeth, either while grinding or when chewing food. Either way, it is not unlikely to break a tooth on the material of the piercing. These teeth often require crowns to restore them, and sometimes root canal therapy also.

Jerome L. Faist, DDS – Beachwood, OH

These are harmful to the teeth.

Jeffery R. Van Treese, DDS – Sidney, OH

If you’ve been considering getting an oral piercing, we hope you’ll take the time to consider the advice provided by these dentists. With risks including infections, chipped or lost teeth, gum recession, potential breathing or choking hazards, the dentists who responded made it clear that they feel oral piercings are something you’re better off without.

Already have an oral piercing and are concerned about the state of your oral health? It’s never a bad idea to check with a dentist. If you’re looking for a new dentist and live in one of the areas above, click the dentist’s name to read some of their patient reviews. For everyone else, search our site to find a dentist near you!


1. Yu, Catherine HY, Brian J Minnema, and Wayne L Gold. “Bacterial Infections Complicating Tongue Piercing.” The Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases & Medical Microbiology 21.1 (2010): e70–e74. Print.

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