Oral piercing (usually on the tongue or around the lips) has become very common over the years. Many people fail to realize that even precautions taken during the installation of a piece of piercing jewelry are not enough to stave off harmful, long-term consequences such as cracked or chipped teeth, swelling, problems with swallowing and taste, ugly scars and opportunist infections. Any kind of body piercing may put a person at risk of contracting deadly infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. A common form of body piercing involves the tongue. Tongue piercings have been known to cause blocked airways (from a swollen tongue). In some cases, a tongue piercing will cause uncontrolled bleeding. In addition, dislodged oral jewery can cause choking.
From a periodontal standpoint, serious long-term health problems from oral piercings come in the form of damage to the soft tissues (cheeks, gums and palate), as well as the hard tissues (teeth and bone). Gum recession, bone loss, tooth chipping and eventual tooth loss are all possible complications associated with oral piercings.
A case in point is a 20-year-old male who presented in our practice with recession and advanced bone loss associated with his lower front teeth. He had worn a tongue stud for several years that wore away his gum tissue. The weakened gum tissue subsequently broke down producing advanced bone loss. He wanted to try to maintain his lower front teeth, so we used isolated flap surgery, debridement and bone grafting to increase the bone and attachment.
Seemingly Healthy Gums
Recession of Gum Closest to Tongue
Bone Loss Seen on X-ray
Five-Months Post Flap Surgery and Bone Grafting, Patient Now Has Increased Attached Tissue and Bone