These days our TV screens and magazines often feature people with unusual body art: intricate tattoos, adaptations to body parts, and piercings in all sorts of places. These programmes and articles often marvel at how inventive the body art and adaptations are, and explain how the individual got to where they are today. However, it is very rare to hear about the effects of the modifications that have taken place. That is, until now. The Oral Health Foundation have recently reported on the findings of research they have carried out. This research looks specifically at the effect oral piercings can have on oral health.
The Oral Health Foundation carried out a poll which included respondents with tongue, lip, cheek and gum piercings. Some of those who took part even had more than one oral piercing. The poll found that the risks included:
chipped or cracked teeth resulting from knocks to the head when piercings were in place
infections developing (particularly when the piercing is new and the wound is open)
issues caused through the initial act of the piercing (such as blood loss, swelling, numbness and risk of more serious conditions). Some of these issues lasted long after the initial wound had healed
interference with speech, swallowing and chewing food
wear and tear on teeth where piercings rub the enamel on the surface of the teeth
So, should piercings be avoided all together? And what can you do if you already have a piercing? The Oral Health Foundation advises all those who are considering getting a new piercing carry out full research before hand. You may consider looking into the the company you're thinking of having your piercing done at and checking them out from a safety perspective, or thinking about how you will manage the aftercare of your new piercing to reduce infection likelihood. When your new piercing is in place, the following steps can be taken to help manage the risks:
use an antibacterial mouthwash to keep your initial wound, and older piercings clean. This will help to prevent infections occurring. Infections can become serious and lead to complications if left untreated, so it's best to act early on – prevention really is key
when playing sport, or taking part in an activity where your mouth area may receive a knock, remove your piercing. This will prevent it from sustaining a trauma and potentially chipping a tooth
try not to let the piercing come into contact with your teeth: don't play or fiddle with it, as this can lead to your teeth wearing down
keep up your regular dental check up appointments and speak with your dentist about your piercing. They may be able to offer more specific and personalised advice about how to keep your oral health at it's optimum
Whatever your take on tattoos, or position on piercings, it's important to carry out your research before heading for the studio. Although the next body modification you're considering might be really eye catching, it may have risks to your body or to your oral health. Make sure you're aware of the risks, and have a plan in place to help you manage these.
For further information, visit the Oral Health Foundation website.