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Mouth Piercings

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The Rite of Passage from teen to adult responsibilities seems to bring with it some unique activity or personal expression. Of course, personal expression is the right of anyone of any age, thus we see a cycle of trends and fads emerge and wither across the population. The current interest in mouth piercing, however, deserves my attention. I‘ve seen patients with infections, broken teeth, and altered gum tissue that began when a piercing was placed.

The mouth is a marvel of microorganisms, but that also means that it is easy to create an infection. Left undetected or untreated, infections cause damage that permanently alters the intended function of structures in the mouth. Piercings can cause these infections, especially because bacteria build up on them*.

Any metal stud or barbell in the mouth is a tiny sledgehammer. When speaking and chewing, it moves into teeth, gum tissue, or the jaw bone. I’ve placed crowns on otherwise healthy teeth in which a sizable chunk of tooth structure just fractured off one day. Microscopic examination of those teeth, and others nearby, often reveal fracture lines. I consider these teeth a ticking bomb, not only for future crowns but for an instant toothache if a fracture goes through the nerve chamber. Occasionally, the fracture is extensive and breaks a tooth in half. It then needs removal and replacement, with an implant.

Finally, certain piercings repeatedly rub on the oral mucosa. This is a fancy term for anything “pink” in your mouth, apart from the tongue. I liken this to wearing a new shoe that isn’t broken in or fits improperly, and we’ve all had this experience. Whether a blister, scab, or scar tissue forms, it alters the condition of existing tissue. I see areas where the gum tissue recedes from the tooth, most often. This exposes the root surface, which is not covered by protective enamel, to sugar and acidic conditions that it wasn’t designed to handle.

I’ve got my fingers crossed that the next trend in personal expression involves daily flossing with neon shades of dental floss…

*For those wanting more scientific date on this topic, check out:

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