Body piercing is becoming quite popular. An
example includes piercing parts of the mouth (oral) as body
decoration. Oral piercing are seen in people of all ages but
are more common in young adults.
Common Oral Piercing Sites
Oral piercing sites include the tongue, the uvula (the soft
tissue hanging at the back of the mouth), the lower and upper
lips, the cheeks or even a combination of these sites. The
tongue, being the most common area, is usually pierced in
the middle, towards the tip. It may be pierced through its
width, from right to left, or through its thickness.
How Oral Piercing is Done
- Oral piercing is frequently done by unlicensed practitioners
who are often self trained.
- Infection control standards should be followed. These
are: disposable gloves, sterile or disposable instruments
and sterilized jewelry.
- Jewelry includes studs, hoops and barbell shaped devices.
Surgical grade stainless steel, 14-karat gold or niobium
oral jewelry is recommended. The device must be removable.
- Local anesthetic (freezing) is generally not used.
- A needle, of the same shape and size as the device being
inserted into the tissues, placed inside a plastic sheath
punctures the tongue. The needle is then removed, leaving
in the sheath until a temporary device is placed.
- The temporary device must be longer than the permanent
device in order to allow immediate and increasing swelling
of the tongue. Surgical removal of the device is necessary
if swelling imbeds it into the tongue.
Within 3-6 weeks, a permanent device is then placed and
constantly worn to avoid closure of the perforation.
Problems That May Be Encountered
Common Symptoms Include:
- Pain, swelling, infection due to digital manipulation
(handling) of the jewelry and large amounts of bacteria
in the mouth, increased salivary flow, and redness due to
the high blood flow to the tongue.
- Transmission of diseases such as Hepatitis, HIV, Herpes
Simplex Virus, Tetanus.
- Prolonged bleeding if blood vessels are punctured.
- Hazard to the airway by swelling of the tongue or aspiration
of the jewelry.
- Allergy to metals and galvanic currents.
- Loss of taste, mobility and numbness of the tongue.
- Constant irritation to the oral tissues, including gingival
- Difficulty with mastication, speech and swallowing.
- Abrasion and fracture of the dentition and restorations.
- Damage to the pulp of the tooth.
- Obstruction of radiographs of the oral cavity and skull.
- Prevents proper oral examination.
Care and Maintenance
During the 4-6 week healing period:
- Refrain from talking too much for a few days after the
piercing in order to release discomfort and swelling.
- Recommended regular use of warm salt water or antiseptic
- Avoid smoking, alcoholic beverages, spicy foods
- Intake of soft foods and vitamin supplements may facilitate
- Abstain from French kissing and oral sex for at least
2 weeks in order to reduce the risk of infection.
After the piercing site has healed, the device may be removed
for a short period of time:
- Clean after every meal with a toothbrush and mouth rinse.
- Remove device and clean all surfaces.
- Avoid hard and sticky foods.
- Proper care should be taken during participation in strenuous
sports and contact game.
- If an individual develops a habit of biting on the device:
- A shorter bar could be used to prevent biting on the oral
- A night guard or splint may be worn to protect the teeth.
- Removal of the device would prevent any trauma to the
It is important to have full knowledge of potential complications
and continually monitor for possible infection. If complications
occur, go back to where the piercing was done or see a health
professional for treatment.