The Risks of Oral Piercings for Teens

Posted Dec 2nd, 2015 in Health & Nutrition, Pediatric Dentistry

The Risks of Oral Piercings for Teens

Tongue and lip piercings are extremely popular among teenagers and young adults. Unfortunately, there are many oral health risks associated with piercings that can cause a lot of harm, both in the short and long term.


In the quest to establish individuality and personal agency, many teens want to try new things that test limits and make them stand out in the crowd. This can include body modifications, such as oral (tongue and lip) piercings.

As the parent of a teen, you’re probably aware that pushing back when teens set their minds on something can only make them more adamant.

If your teen is interested in getting an oral piercing, however, it’s important that he or she understands all the potential risks involved before making this serious choice.

My teenager wants to get his tongue or lip pierced. Is this safe?

At SmileTown Burnaby, as dental professionals, we discourage oral piercings because the questionable benefits are vastly outweighed by the potential risks.

Some of the risks involved in tongue & lip piercings include

  • Infection - Because there is so much bacteria in the mouth, the wound created by oral piercings presents a much higher risk of infection than many other types of piercings, especially when combined with the additional bacteria that comes from handling the jewelry.
  • Disease Transmission - Oral piercings present a potential risk for the transmission of herpes simplex virus, as well as hepatitis B & C.
  • Chipped Tooth Enamel - When teeth come into contact with mouth jewelry, they can become chipped or cracked. This can result is often expensive dental work.
  • Nerve Damage - if nerves are damaged during piercing, numbness, loss of sensation, and difficulty moving the pierced area can occur. In addition, tongue swelling after the piercing can be severe enough to block the airway and impede breathing.
  • Endocarditis - the wound introduced by oral piercings means there is a chance that bacteria from the mouth will enter the bloodstream, leading to the development of endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart and/or its valves.
  • Difficulties with Daily Oral Function - Tongue piercing can result in difficulty chewing and swallowing food, and with speaking clearly. This is in part because the jewelry can cause excessive saliva production, resulting in temporary or permanent drooling.
  • Increased Risk of Gum Disease - People with oral piercings, particularly long-stem tongue jewelry, have a greater risk of gum disease than those without oral piercings. This is because the jewelry can come into contact with the gums, which can cause injury and gum tissue recession.

If my teen already has an oral piercing, or insists on getting one, how should we care for it, to keep it healthy and safe?

If your teen decides to get a piercing in spite of the risks and your objections, you can lessen the risks by following these steps:

  • Discuss all the associated risks with your teen beforehand, and make sure he or she knows exactly what’s involved in caring for an oral piercing.
  • Make sure the establishment where the piercing procedure is performed has strict cleanliness and sanitation regulations in place. Do your research ahead of time.
  • Regular dental checkups and cleanings, as well as consistent at home oral hygiene routines, are even more important for someone with an oral piercing, so making sure your teen stays on top of oral care will lessen the likelihood of problems occurring with his or her piercing.

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