- Infection: Over 700 different strains of bacteria have been detected in the human mouth. The site of piercing carries the potential for infection. Food particles can also accumulate around piercings and become a breeding ground for bacteria.
If you’re thinking about getting an oral piercing — or if you already have one — there are some health risks you should know about.
A mouth piercing can interfere with speech, chewing, or swallowing, however of more concern are the following:
- Nerve damage: Numbness or loss of sensation at the site of the piercing can occur if nerves are damaged when the tongue is pierced. This numbness can be temporary or permanent. Nerve damage can also possibly change your sense of taste or how you move your mouth.
- Prolonged bleeding. The tongue is quite vascular, and if blood vessels are punctured during piercing, prolonged bleeding can occur and can cause serious blood loss.
- Swelling. Swelling commonly occurs after oral piercing. Following piercing, it can be severe enough to block the airway and make breathing difficult.
- Excessive drooling and difficulty speaking and eating: Oral jewelry can cause excessive saliva production and can affect your ability to pronounce words clearly.
- Damage to teeth: Teeth that come into contact with mouth jewelry can chip or crack. One study in a dental journal reported that 47% of people wearing barbell tongue jewelry for 4 or more years had at least one chipped tooth
- Gum disease: People with oral piercings have a greater risk of gum disease than those without oral piercings. The jewelry can come into contact with gum tissue causing injury as well as a recession of the gum tissue, which can lead to loose teeth and tooth loss.
- Allergic reaction to metal. An allergic reaction to the metal in the jewelry can occur in susceptible people.
- Jewelry aspiration. Jewelry that becomes loose in the mouth can become a choking hazard and, if swallowed, can result in injury to the lungs or digestive track.
- X-rays: Mouth jewelry can interfere with dental radiographs (x-rays).
- Bloodborne disease transmission: Oral piercing is a potential risk factor for the transmission of herpes simplex virus and hepatitis B and C.
- Heart Problems: Oral piercings carry a potential risk of endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart valves or tissues. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the piercing site in the mouth and travel to the heart, where they can cause serious problems.