Oral Piercings and Dental Health
There is no denying the fact oral piercings have become more prominent over the years. Today, you can find people of just about any age or gender who have a tongue or other oral area pierced. But even though this way of self-expression may be trendy, oral piercings can cause dental complications if they are not properly cared for. Is your piercing negatively affecting your oral health?
All piercings need to be cleaned regularly, but for oral piercings, this cleaning needs to be extra thorough, because they can attract unwanted reactions and infections that can then cause trauma to your overall oral health. This means it is so important that you maintain a regular hygiene regimen throughout the process of having the piercing.
What sort of reactions can your mouth have to an oral piercing? There are a number of things to watch for—here are the most common:
- Oral Infections. Since our mouths are filled with bacteria (mostly the good kind), any sort of oral piercing is subject to infection since it is in continual contact with the saliva and bacteria in your mouth. If the bacteria in your mouth manages its way into your bloodstream, through the hole your piercing is in, a condition called Endocarditis can occur. This is an oral infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers and, as you can imagine, this can cause serious health problems—beyond oral.
- Chipped and Broken Teeth. Piercings located close to the gum tissue can rub and wear at the roots of your teeth. This may not be a noticeable problem at first, but over time this constant friction will cause your gums to recede, exposing the sensitive nerves to your teeth. From this point, as the piercing continues to rub at the base of the gum, the teeth can become brittle and begin to crack. Once there is a crack or break in the tooth it may need major dental work such as a repair filling and a root canal.
*TIP: It’s a good idea to use plastic or other softer materials for oral piercings if possible. Hard metal piercings that rub at your gums and teeth have a high possibility of causing damage.
- Scratches and Rashes. Lip piercings and other piercings close to the jaw and gum line can cause gum tissue scratches, which do heal but the scratch itself can get infected. Rashes can also break out and other wounds, which open up the possibility for a host of oral infections.
- Negative Reaction. Speaking of rashes and wounds, since most mouth piercings contain nickel, an allergic reaction can come about if you aren’t sure how your body reacts to the metal. This is why it is so important to make sure you are not allergic to nickel prior to getting a piercing.
- Ingesting a Piercing. Since oral piercings are inside the mouth there is always the chance of swallowing a piercing or a piece of it. Piercing studios will tell you that swallowing a piercing is harmless, as it will safely pass through your stool, there is no guarantee this is true.
- Complications with Swelling. Tongue piercings especially like to swell since the piercing itself is damaging nerves and tissue. Some people swell more than others, and for those who do swell a lot, this can be dangerous because the tongue can balloon up enough to make breathing difficult, or even block your airway completely. If you are thinking of getting your tongue pierced, make sure you have quick access to medical attention if needed!
What is Your Body Telling You?
Our bodies are amazing machines that like to communicate with us when they are healthy and when there might be something wrong. If we pay attention, our bodies are giving little tells all the time indicating our current levels of health. This information is likely nothing new, but at Adam Brown, DDS we think it’s important for you to recognize a not-so-common sign that your oral health may be in danger, whether that danger is due to a piercing or anything else.
Paying close attention to your gums is incredibly important for analyzing your own oral health. If we have piercings, we know the importance of keeping them clean, we all know the necessity of flossing and brushing and making sure those gums are not receding, but what about when areas of the gums begin to turn white? What is your body trying to tell you when this happens? White spots on the gums are more common than not, but most people do not understand the possible dangers that could arise because of them.
Unfortunately, noticing a white coloration on your gums could mean a number of different things, and they all have varying levels of seriousness. They can be caused by irritations due to piercings, but they can also come from a lack of proper oral care. That being said, as long as you catch it in time and know the possible reasons, you can get your oral health right back where it needs to be.
Here are some possible reasons for white gums:
- Leukoplakia: This is an oral disease where white or gray coloration appears on or around the gums. These light spots are created due to mucous membranes that are sensitive and quite painful. Think canker sores, only on your gums! Leukoplakia is often caused by long-term tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, poorly fitting dental appliances, mouth injury, or bodily maladies such as cancer and HIV. If you find painful, white sores on your gums, the best thing to do is see a dentist immediately. Whether it is leukoplakia or not, your gums should never be white.
- Anemia: This is a tough one because it can produce in many different forms, making it difficult to identify. The best way to diagnose anemia is to notice if the white coloration on your gums is paired with any of the following happenings:
-cold hands and feet
-spells of dizziness
-shortness of breath
-spells of irregular heartbeat
Another tell to anemia is the sudden whiteness of skin beyond just the gums. Some common causes of anemia include vitamin B12 and iron deficiencies, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease. This is definitely one you want to take care of right away. If you feel any of these symptoms could be true for you, make a dental appointment as soon as possible.
- Mouth Ulcers: noticing white spots on your gums could indicate oncoming ulcers. This is much less serious than the previous causes of white gums, but these sores are no fun at all. If you feel the white spots on your gums could be connected to ulcers, it’s a good idea to begin washing your mouth out with saltwater. This is a great way to keep them away and the inside of your mouth healthy. Some causes of mouth ulcers are sugary foods and drinks, as well as, tobacco use. There is no need to completely cut these out of your diet, but regulation is a must.
- Gingivitis: this is a mild form of gum disease that is fairly common among American adults. If you notice your gums beginning to recede and turn white, gingivitis is most likely the culprit. A few other signs include swollen and bleeding gums, even painful irritation, and loose teeth. The most common cause of gingivitis is poor oral care, so if you have fallen off the wagon a bit, it’s best to get right back into the routine of brushing and flossing regularly to keep from this uncomfortable situation.
- Lichen Planus: this chronic autoimmune condition can inflame the gums and begin to turn them white in lacy patches. Symptoms of lichen planus are similar to gingivitis, but regular dental check-ups can keep this condition from inflammation.
- Candidiasis: simply put, this is a yeast infection that causes creamy white sores on the gums. This type of infection is usually seen in babies and older adults and is often brought on by diabetes. If you happen to fit any of these categories, it is best to maintain a strict teeth-and-gum cleaning schedule and keep up with your dental appointments. Two appointments a year is recommended, but in this case, you might benefit more from three or four check-ups a year.
- Oral Cancer: if you ever notice white bumps or growths on your gums, or if you suddenly find it difficult to chew or swallow, see a dentist right away. Most importantly, though, don’t panic. White growths or raised sections on the gums do not always equate to cancer, and even if they do, the faster you get them looked at the better your chances of having them safely removed.
Oral piercings or not, it is of the utmost importance to keep up on proper oral health. Whenever in doubt to what your body is telling you, contact us at Adam Brown, DDS. We are always here to help!