Oral piercing is one of the most popular types of piercing out there, and its popularity is ever increasing. Oral piercings are classified as anything which involves the mouth. The most common oral piercing is the tongue piercing, but labret piercings, lip piercings, and cheek piercings are among the other types which fall under the category of oral piercings. For as popular as oral piercing is, it also represents more risks than most kinds of piercing. As such, it is incredibly important to evaluate the pros and cons of receiving an oral piercing before committing to the procedure.
In general, people get oral piercings for aesthetic or cosmetic purposes. There are also religious and culture reasons, as well as an individual’s belief that an oral piercing may increase his or her self-esteem. In addition, lots of people turn to oral piercings because they believe it will increase and enhance sexual feelings for themselves and their partners. On that same note, some people enjoy the sensation of pain provided by receiving an oral piercing.
The first step in making sure than an oral piercing will not cause any undue health risk is making sure that the piercing is placed in the proper location. For tongue piercing, the rules are particularly stringent. Tongue piercings should be located along the middle of the tongue – basically, in the center of the mouth – and it should be done at an angle, so that the top of the piercing is located further back than the underside of the piercing, allowing the jewelry to lean away from the teeth and towards the highest part of the roof of the mouth. As well, tongue piercings should be located in front of the webbing under the tongue.
With lip and/or cheek piercings, these should be placed in an area perpendicular to the area being pierced, in order to avoid a sharp angle. It should also be located within a “neutral” spot within or around the mouth, and the post used should be snug so that, once the piercing has finished healing, there is minimal contact between the jewelry and the teeth and gums. Cheek piercings should go no farther than the first molars in order to avoid certain glands and ducts. Having a piercer use strong light to locate these, as well as blood vessels and nerves, can help make the procedure much safer.
There are certain things to look and ask for concerning the actual procedure and the care and maintenance following the procedure which can also reduce any risks normally connected to oral piercings. Concerning how the piercing is done, it is best to use either surgical grade stainless steel, fourteen karat gold, or niobium jewelry. As far as the jewelry itself goes, rings, studs, and straight barbells are all acceptable pieces. The needle used should be the same shape and size as the jewelry which will be inserted. In general, the procedure involves the needle being inserted into the appropriate location. It is then placed inside a plastic sheathe. When the needle is removed, the sheathe remains, holding the pierced hole in place until the jewelry is inserted. The initial piece of jewelry is generally longer than what an individual will choose to permanently place in the respective location, because this can reduce swelling substantially.
The healing period for oral piercings usually lasts anywhere from four to six weeks. During that period, the person who has been pierced should not talk overly much for the first few days after he or she has been pierced, because refraining from too much speech can significantly decrease any swelling and discomfort. The person who has been pierced should also regularly gargle with antiseptic mouthwash or a warm salt water solution, especially after any instances of eating or drinking. On that note, it is better to refrain from smoking, drinking alcohol, and eating spicy or excessively salty foods – soft foods and vitamin supplements may actually aid in the healing process. Furthermore, people who have just received oral piercings should avoid French kissing and any oral sex for at least two weeks, as this substantially lowers the risk of infection.
When it comes to cleaning, the site and/or jewelry should be cleaned after every meal, with either a toothbrush, mouth rinse, or both. In some cases, cleaning the site with either a Q-tip or a cotton ball is also recommended – stay away from towels and wash cloths. After the site has healed somewhat, it is all right to remove the jewelry for short periods of time, in order to clean it. People who have just received oral piercings should also do all they can to keep from biting on the jewelry. If they cannot, then a shorter piece of jewelry may be used, and there are also guards and splits available.
As mentioned, oral piercings carry the potential for many risks and infections. Standard symptoms, which must be accepted no matter the site or the care one takes, include pain and swelling. With tongue, labret, and lip piercings, popsicles and ice can help with swelling immensely. An increased flow of saliva – or even drooling – and heightened redness can also be expected.
When it comes to risks, people with oral piercings should be on the lookout for any prolonged bleeding, which may indicate the puncturing of blood vessels. Other possible risks include aspiration and respiratory problems, especially with tongue piercings, because the tongue may swell. Anyone allergic to metal or galvanic currents should be particularly vigilant. Loss of taste and mobility and numbness of the tongue are also possible, in addition to difficulties when it comes to chewing, swallowing and speaking – for example, people with tongue piercings may find themselves suddenly suffering from the onset of a lisp. With labret, lip, and tongue piercings, there are great risks to the teeth and gum, which can include the abrasion and fracture of teeth, damage to the pulp, and the wearing down and disappearance of tooth enamel.
This is not to say that you should stay away from or not get an oral piercing. There is simply the potential for substantial risks involved with any oral piercing. It is important to make sure that the piercer knows what he or she is doing, and it would not hurt to consult with a dentist, in order to take every precaution possible.