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Lip Piercing: Too High a Price for Fashion

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Lip Piercing: Too High a Price for Fashion

Lip Piercing: Too High a Price for Fashion

May 10, 2005
By Shelagh McNally for Dental1

No matter how cool that lip stud looks today, it is going to cause problems later. At the 83rd General Session of the International Association for Dental Research in Baltimore, researchers from the Ohio State University in Columbus presented a disturbing new study focused on the dental health of those with pierced lips.

At a Glance
Problems Caused by Lip, Cheek or Tongue Piercing:

Receding gums

Fractured teeth

Nerve damage at the piercing site

Chipped teeth or chipped enamel



Metal allergy

Persistent infections (hepatitis, HIV, tetanus, bacteria, and yeast)

Keloids (thick scarring at the piercing site)

Tartar build-up around jewelry

Choking or aspiration from loose jewelry

Speech impediment

Difficulty chewing

The study recruited 58 young men and women between the ages of 21 and 22 and examined their teeth. The 29 recruits with lip studs had a 41 percent higher level of receding gums as opposed to the 29 adults with no lips studs who had a mere 6.9 percent. Dr. Dimitris N. Tatakis, the lead researcher in the Ohio study, also noted that piercing made nearby teeth ultra-sensitive to cold. The placement of the stud also made it harder to brush and clean teeth increasing the risk of cavities, plaque build-up and gingivitis. But even good oral hygiene will not prevent the studs from constantly rubbing up against the gum line to create a receding gum.

“What you have is basically mechanical trauma hitting the gums," Dr. Tatakis told Reuters Health. "Inevitably, they're going to have problems."

People who had their lips pierced the longest fared the worst. Age and gender didn't matter; the length of time a lip was pierced is what determined the rate of gingival recession.
The gum recedes at the point where it regularly comes into contact with jewelry. Not only do the gums suffer but also often the enamel surface of the teeth is chipped or the tooth itself is cracked.

Cheek or tongue piercings also caused the same type of problems. Most dentists will caution against getting oral piercings. The problem is no one is listening. Another recently published report published in the US Journal of Periodontology expressed concern that few young people consult doctors or dentists before getting pierced. "Oral piercing has become a popular trend and most people do not seek advice from a dental or medical professional prior to the piercing," wrote Dr Michael McGuire, who led the research. As a result doctors and dentists are seeing patients suffering from tongue and tissue swelling, nerve damage, increased flow of saliva, pain, fractured teeth, interference with speech and metal hypersensitivity as a result of getting pierced.

Some of the damage happens fairly quickly as well. Fractured teeth or chipped enamel happens within two months of getting the piercing and if the receding gum line can start within six months. If left in, the stud will eventually cause periodontitis where the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth. Infection is also a common complication of oral piercing due to the amount of bacteria found in the mouth. Probably the most dangerous is the metal allergy that can develop which leads to a persistent irritation despite being cleaned developing into a slow infection that can be fatal. When William Hill of Chicago was admitted to the hospital, doctors were puzzled by his stroke symptoms. Further tests revealed the 31-year old had bacterial endocarditis, an inflammation of the membrane lining the heart, caused by his many piercings – including a stud in this tongue. A portion of his heart valve had broken off, traveled to his brain and triggered a stroke. Hill has since removed his piercings.

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