Dentists Warned To Look Out For Oral Piercing

CHICAGO - Body piercing is becoming more popular these days, and as people run out of body parts to impale, many are turning to the mouth, lips and tongue as suitable places for jewelry. However, according to a case study published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), dentists need to be aware of this growing trend and the risks to patients that oral piercing carries.

Professors at the West Virginia University School of Dentistry report on a 20-year old male who came to the clinic with wisdom tooth pain and swelling of the left jaw associated with multiple site piercing's.

Sheila Price, associate professor, School of  Dentistry,  Department of Diagnostic Services, WVU, reported that this reaction is common among people who have had oral piercing's.

"Common symptoms after piercing include pain, swelling, infection, increased salivary flow and gingival (gum) injury," she reports. Oral piercing often involves the lips, cheeks, tongue, uvula or any combination of these sites, with the tongue being the most commonly pierced intra oral site reported.

"The most profound aspect of the intra oral piercing procedure is that anesthetic is not used," Dr. Price said. In most cases the person conducting the piercing will clamp the area while the needle is inserted into the tissue.

The case study also indicates that after piercing is completed, oral jewelry in the form of studs, hoops or barbell-shaped devices are used.

However, her report points out the severe risks that are associated with oral piercing and advises dentists to be aware of these risks when their patients with oral piercing's. come in for treatment. The risks reported include: airway obstruction after swallowing jewelry; prolonged bleeding; chipped or cracked teeth after biting one of the pieces of jewelry; scar tissue formation; speech impediment and jewelry that blocks the x-ray.

"Piercing oral structures presents a high risk of infection because of the vast amounts of bacteria in the mouth," Dr. Price writes.

This story has been adapted from a news release issued by American Dental Association