Oral piercings are more typically seen in adolescents and young adults, and are used as a form of body art or self-expression. The tongue is considered the most common site for oral-piercing placement, but individuals can also pierce their lips, cheek, chin and other soft tissues of the mouth.

There are two primary forms of oral piercing; firstly the intraoral piercing, which is a piercing where both ends of the oral jewelry (device or apparatus) reside in the oral cavity, as seen with tongue piercings. The second type of piercing is perioral piercing, which is when only one end of the jewelry resides in the oral cavity and the other end penetrates the skin surface, for example in the cheek, upper or lower lip, chin or associated tissues.

While some people think oral piercings are popular or trendy, numerous studies and case reports have shown that oral piercings can lead to a wide range of oral and systemic complications.

Possible Oral Piercing Complications

  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Chipped or damaged teeth
  • Gingival recession (exposure of a tooth’s root due to a receding gum line)
  • Lacerations/scarring
  • Embedded oral jewelry (requiring surgical removal)
  • Airway obstruction
  • Hypersalivation
  • Palatal erythema (inflammatory skin disorder)
  • Keloid formation (raised scar tissue)
  • Discharge from the pierced region

How to Maintain your Dental Health with an Oral Piercing

Individuals who receive oral piercings can expect pain and swelling within the first few days after the procedure. Before the swelling subsides and the longer, more permanent jewelry device is fitted, it is advised to use a alcohol-free mouthwash to cleanse the mouth and site of the oral piercing.

After the piercing procedure, although the mouth may be tender, individuals still need to continue with standard oral hygiene procedures, such as toothbrushing with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristle toothbrush twice daily; flossing at least once a day; and using an alcohol-free mouthwash.

To further keep the piercing site clean, avoid playing with the oral-piercing jewelry and monitor your oral cavity for signs of infection, including swelling, pain, tenderness and unusual discharges or odors. All forms of intraoral or perioral jewelry should be removed before participating in physical activities, especially contact and collision sports.

The American Dental Association (ADA) advises against the practices of cosmetic intraoral/perioral piercing and views these as invasive procedures that potentially cause negative health issues, which outweigh any potential benefit.