Dental Risks of Oral Piercings

While lip, cheek, or tongue piercings may look like a cool form of self expression, they can pose surprising risks to your smile and dental health. Some of the side effects of oral piercings include:

Teeth Damage. You can crack or chip teeth while biting down too hard on a piercing, especially if it becomes dislodged. Repeated clicking of jewelry against teeth can also cause damage, even to restorations.

Studies show that 47% of people
wearing barbell tongue jewelry for at
least four years had a least one chipped tooth

Damage may require restorations like fillings, caps, implants, crowns, or veneers. If fractures aren’t addressed in a timely manner, a root canal or extraction may ultimately be necessary. These procedures can become costly.

Infections. The mouth contains millions of bacteria. Infection and swelling also often occurs with mouth piercings, which can close of your airway and/or lead to more serious systemic infections like hepatitis or endocarditis.

Gum Disease. Oral piercings increase the risk of gum disease because the jewelry can come in contact with soft gum tissue, causing them to be injured and recede. This can ultimately lead to loose teeth and tooth loss.

Excess Saliva. Jewelry stimulates an excessive production of saliva, which can alter taste and cause temporary or permanent drooling. It can also impact your ability to chew and swallow food properly or speak clearly.



If you have evaluated these risks and still decided to move forward with a piercing, consider the following when selecting your piercing studio:

  • Seek reputable studio recommendations from friends
  • Visit the studio and evaluate cleanliness
  • Inquire if they use hospital-grade autoclaves for sterilization, disposable gloves, and/or disposable instruments
  • Ask to view the studio’s health certificates
  • Are all needles and jewelry stored in sterilized packaging?
  • Are all staff members who pierce customers vaccinated against hepatitis B? (This is a MUST)

If the staff isn’t friendly or willing to answer your questions, that is a good sign to find another piercing studio


Once you get your piercing or if you already have one:

  • Contact your dentist or doctor immediately if you have any signs of infection – swelling, pain, fever, chills, shaking, or a red-streaked appearance around the site of the piercing
  • Use antiseptic mouth rinse after each meal to keep piercing area clean and free of debris
  • Brush the piercing just as you would brush your teeth
  • Avoid clicking the jewelry against teeth
  • Avoid touching the piercing and transferring bacteria from your fingers
  • Wash your hands and check that jewelry is secured on a regular basis to prevent swallowing or choking on it
  • Remove jewelry when eating, sleeping, or playing sports
  • Brush and floss twice a day
  • Opt for plastic jewelry made of Teflon® or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) as opposed to stainless steel, which accumulates more bacteria and is harder on the teeth
  • If you use a stainless steel piercing, insist on surgical-grade
  • Invest in plugs to place in the hole so you can remove the barbell for as long as necessary
  • See a dentist regularly to ensure your tongue and teeth stay healthy


A piercing is an added responsibility to your life, meaning it requires frequent attention and upkeep. Recognize that certain potential side effects are life-long and not nearly as cool as the piercing looks. Your safest bet is to avoid oral piercing altogether. However if you think you’re game to live on the edge, talk to your dentist for more information. Call Dr. Arhiri at Premier Smiles Dental Spa at 610-647-7611 or email

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