3 Common Oral Piercing Problems And How To Resolve Or Prevent Them

Are you considering an oral piercing? Whether it's the tongue, lips, or some other area, this type of self-expression has become very common. When done correctly, the majority of procedures go just fine and are perfectly safe. Much as with any other procedure that breaks the skin, a small number of risks do exist. This list of three common oral piercing problems will help you to get prepared for your new piercing--and helpful tips for prevention or resolution will ensure that you can correct an issue if one occurs.

Immediate Swelling Or Redness

This is easily the most common risk or side effect of any new piercing. 

With regard to sensitive mucosal tissues, though, that swelling and redness can seem more intense. Anyone who has been stung by a bee around the mouth has likely seen just how much the lips can swell. The same is true for the tongue. This happens because of the high degree of blood flow to each of the areas. Thankfully, it's pretty easy to mitigate swelling or redness.

In the days after your piercing, rinsing with sterile saline every few hours and taking an NSAID medication can help. Unless you have allergies or sensitivities, ibuprofen does an excellent job of reducing this swelling.

Piercings of the tongue will take about a week to come down to their normal size in most individuals. Swelling in the lips usually resolves even faster.

When To See The Dentist: If swelling becomes so severe that it spreads to other areas of the face. Also seek care if the swollen tissue begins to "swallow" the piercing itself. Finally, see your dentist if tongue swelling interferes with swallowing food or liquids.

Having some difficulty with speech is normal and to be expected for up to two weeks. It isn't necessarily indicative of an issue.

Intense Itching or Flaky Skin and Redness

This is most often attributed to a condition called contact dermatitis, which is an allergy to the metals used in your jewelry. For best results, oral piercings should always be done with either titanium or surgical steel. This will help to prevent the condition in all but the most sensitive individuals.

Most commonly, you'll see this rash on the outside of the mouth with lip piercings. It is less common, but not unheard of, with piercings that reside entirely in the mouth. Additionally, inner piercings may not manifest the slight flaking that is often seen in contact dermatitis; instead, you may see mild blistering.

Contact dermatitis that has already taken hold will not resolve on its own without a change in jewelry. For very mild cases, you can try taking diphenhydramine but this is usually a temporary fix. See your piercer as soon as possible to change your jewelry out for a different type of metal. 

If it turns out you are sensitive to all metals, you may be unable to wear piercings at all.

When to See the Dentist: For contact dermatitis, you can see either your dentist or your doctor. Do so whenever extreme blistering occurs, or when you have systemic symptoms like breathing issues, dizziness, or vision changes. This can be a sign of anaphylaxis and should be considered a medical emergency.

Anaphylaxis to surgical steel or titanium is incredibly rare.

Worn Teeth

Oral care professionals will warn you that wearing of the teeth is common when you get an oral piercing. This can occur in a few different ways depending on where your jewelry is located:

  • Tongue piercings tend to rub against the two front and bottom teeth
  • Upper and lower lip piercings will rub against the closest teeth to their position

This is exacerbated by the fact that many people find it irresistible to play with the jewelry. It can also be worsened by the natural movement of the mouth as it opens and closes.

Prevention is fairly easy--just use a clear acrylic or silicone jewelry for at least part of the day once your healing process is complete. Resist the temptation to play with any piercing in the mouth whenever possible.

It is important to note that silicone and acrylic jewelry should not be used while you are still healing. Because it is flexible, it carries a greater risk of migrating into the skin. It's also far less hypoallergenic than titanium or steel.

When to See the Dentist: When your teeth become very sensitive, whenever you notice obvious chipping, or whenever you accidentally crack a tooth on your jewelry.

Also, be sure to see your dentist regularly for a check-up as enamel wear can occur without any obvious visual signs.

Thanks to advances in both jewelry and oral health care, you can be confident that an oral piercing is almost always safe when cared for properly. Keeping this short guide on you will help you to identify issues when they first occur or prevent them in the first place. While healing can take some time--up to six months for many individuals--proper care goes a long way to speed the process. If you have questions about oral health as related to piercings, contact your dentist today. For more about this topic, follow the link.