We get it – sometimes, we sacrifice our health for appearance. High heeled shoes look great, but can cause permanent foot problems. Using heat to dry, curl or straighten hair can damage it, but many people do it every day. Oral piercings in your lip or tongue can display your originality but, unfortunately, they can damage your teeth and gums.

So, what do you do if your or your child’s oral piercing is causing dental problems?

How Oral Piercings Damage Oral Health

Piercings are popular and typically benign. Sure, sometimes a piercing may get infected and it’s not uncommon for a large earring to snag on clothes but, for the most part, they don’t cause long-term damage.

Oral piercings are an exception.

Bruxism and clenching your teeth can wear them down over time. Similarly, a piercing that presses against your gums, palate or teeth all day can wear down oral health, too. In a study out of Switzerland, people with tongue piercings experienced more instances of gum disease. Those with tongue piercings were more likely to experience bleeding, receding or inflamed gums than their non-pierced counterparts. A small-scale study out of Belgium focused on two women with tongue piercings, who experienced recurrences of gum damage due to the constant pressure the piercings put on their teeth and gums.

A dentist involved with the Belgian study reported that people with piercings frequently “played with” the piercing, constantly moving it against their tongue, gums and teeth, which can wear down enamel, irritate gums, and even lead to cracks or chips in the teeth.

Another way oral piercings damage your oral health is that they can encourage bad bacteria to grow. Brushing and flossing, in addition to regular visits to the dentist, are sometimes not enough to keep bad bacteria at bay. By having an oral piercing, you’ve created another small area for bacteria to grow and multiply, introducing more room for problems.

How to Prevent Oral Damage from Piercings

If you have an oral piercing and you’re experiencing wear and tear on your teeth, gums or tongue, it may be time to make a tough decision. Of course, breaking the habit of pressing your tongue or lips into the piercing can lower your risk of oral damage, but it’s not a surefire way to prevent issues.

As you talk, chew or move your lips or tongue, the piercing will naturally rub and tap against your mouth. Unfortunately, that means your best option is to remove the piercing altogether. If you’re not ready to do that, you must maintain immaculate oral health by brushing twice daily and flossing once a day, in addition to your biannual visits to your dentist.

Don’t Let Anything Get Between You and Good Oral Health

If you have an oral piercing you’re not ready to get rid of, or if you have questions about ways to maintain great oral health, Drs. Ken and Marnie Collins of Collins Dentistry and Aesthetics in Spokane, Washington, can offer expert advice and discuss the risks of an oral piercing.

To schedule an appointment with expert cosmetic, family, and general dentists, please call (509) 532-1111 today, or schedule an appointment online by clicking here.