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Dentists warn that oral piercings can lead to serious illness

(31 Jul 2013)

Dentists warn that oral piercings can lead to serious illness 

Tongue piercings can affect speech, sense of taste and cause drooling 

IDA calls for regulation of piercings sector 

Dentists are warning young people that oral piercings pose a significant risk to their health and in extreme cases can result in life threatening illness and infections.

The Irish Dental Association says some issues which may arise from piercings include; infections, the transfer of diseases such as Hep B, C and D, EndocardItis, gum disease, nerve damage, tooth damage and allergic reaction to metals.

The IDA said its members see an increase in the number of young patients presenting with oral piercing related issues between August and December every year.

Anecdotal evidence suggests this may be due to young people attending music festivals such as Oxegen, going on holiday with their friends and also students preparing to start college.

Dr Sean Malone, President of the Irish Dental Association said “The bottom line is this. Anyone who gets an oral piercing will damage their oral health. In many cases that damage will be irreversible.

The tongue is integral to speech and if a piercing becomes infected there is a risk of irreparable damage. At the very least you will damage your front teeth. Whatever their situation, we would urge any young person who is considering getting a tongue, lip or mouth piercing to first of all make themselves aware of the dangers beforehand.” 

The IDA pointed out that young people with heart murmurs could be especially at risk. When a tongue or lip is pierced, lots of bacteria can enter the mouth, and in some circumstances this leads to Infective Endocarditis. This occurs when the bacteria attach to an abnormal section of a young person’s heart, leading to serious illness.

One of the other more painful and unpleasant aspects of oral jewellery happens when the gums recede.  In order to correct receding gums the patient must undergo painful grafting of the gum, a treatment which will help to alleviate some pain and infection but it can never return the gum to full health.

“The risk of infections is heightened when people decide to get a piercing done when they are abroad or are attending a music festival. The standards of hygiene may well be lacking, leading to a greater risk of contracting hepatitis. That is why we are calling for the introduction of a regulatory code in Ireland and the EU for piercing establishments” Dr Malone said.

Other symptoms of piercings may well include some of the following:

  • Difficulty speaking clearly
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing food
  • Chipped or damaged teeth
  • Gum loss
  • Sense of taste can be altered
  • Temporary or permanent drooling
  • Difficulties cleaning the jewellery
  • Overgrowth around the piercing
  • Swelling and bleeding  

For further information:

Contact Maria Whitmore, Gordon MRM 01 6650451 or 087/2377105