Michigan Dentist Warns: Oral Piercings Threaten Oral Health

These days, it seems no area of the body is taboo to pierce and decorate with a piece of metal. Facial piercings are among the most popular and include piercings through sites such as nasal cartilage, lips, tongues, and even cheeks. While these fashion accessories certainly make a statement and express a degree of individuality, when placed through the oral cavity, a piercing usually negatively affects your oral health. Farmington Hills dentist Dr. Aziza Askari explains how an oral piercing can lead to damage to your teeth and gums and possibly exacerbate your risk factors for disease and infection.

The Immediate Risk of Piercing Your Mouth

By definition, an oral piercing creates an open wound within your oral cavity. At any given moment, even immediately after cleaning your mouth, there are about 600 different kinds of bacteria in your mouth, equaling around 15 million single microbes. Only a few of these are dangerous, and the rest regulate the chemistry that your mouth requires to operate properly (i.e., pH levels). The malicious ones, however, are the reasons behind tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral issues, and they hardly miss a chance to do their job. Oral bacteria enter your bloodstream through any open wound or infected tissue within your mouth. The main bacterium responsible for gum disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis, stimulates your body’s natural inflammatory response to the presence of infection. If allowed to enter the bloodstream through a freshly-opened piercing wound, P. gingivalis will travel throughout your body and potentially inflame any other tissue it contacts. This can lead to fatal systemic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Continued Damage from an Oral Piercing

Although the risk is great, not everybody who receives an oral piercing will contract a systemic disease. However, according to research published in the Journal of Periodontology, 40-50% of people who have had oral piercings for over two years have experienced gum recession. Constant irritation to your gums from the piercing can cause the gums to pull back from the teeth, exposing the root of the tooth. Extreme tooth sensitivity is a common symptom of an exposed tooth root, and tooth decay quickly follows root exposure because an exposed root is defenseless against bacterial attack. As the piercing bumps up against your teeth, it can also cause tiny cracks and fissures to appear in the enamel of your teeth. These cracks trap staining substances and allow bacteria to slip past the enamel to the inner tooth.

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