“Will the doctor see a patient with a tongue piercing? Will he do it without lecturing her or making her feel bad about herself?” That was my introduction to a seventeen-year-old young woman who had just turned her life around. She had been through a lot, and her mother wanted to find her a new dentist who would be accepting and professional. Her previous dentist had “scolded her”. He would not care for her teeth until she removed her tongue stud permanently.
What’s wrong with oral piercings? A tongue piercing is a potential source of infection. The jewelry may damage the teeth and gums. Many people with piercings can’t speak normally. The National Institute of Health found that oral piercings are a possible route of disease transfer. Swelling, bleeding, and heart disease have all been associated with oral piercings (“For the Dental Patient…” Journal of the American Dental Association, volume 132, January 2001, p.127).
Many dentists would feel that they have done their job by giving their patients the above information. After reading the following statement from the Association of Professional Piercers (APP), your author feels that that is not enough. Since many individuals still desire oral piercings and intend to get them, it is far more constructive to provide accurate information and specific guidelines on safe piercing procedure and how to choose a practitioner. http://www.safepiercing.org/oralRisks.html
Choosing a piercer is much the same as choosing any professional. Begin by asking your friends and acquaintances who they have used. What was their experience like? How did their experience with that professional make them feel? Did they counsel your friend before piercing, and were they available to help with problems after? Many people say that a procedure done by a piercer is as careful and hygienic a procedure as any done in a dental office. Piercers utilize disposable, sterile needles and steam autoclaves just as in any medical office. There is training available to piercers, and certification from the APP. Most communities, require that piercers and piercing studios be licensed by the local board of health.
The APP web site http://safepiercing.org has a page entitled, “choosing a piercer” in which they detail questions that you should ask the piercer and yourself when interviewing a piercing professional. Some of the questions are obvious as, “Are they licensed to operate?” Some are obvious, “Does the studio seem clean?” A couple of the questions refer to the industry’s guidelines for safe piercing. “Does the shop reuse needles?” “ Do they have an aftercare sheet?” The most basic advice of all is, “Use your instincts.” Research your options, ask your questions, feel comfortable with your choice, and remember that you are the customer. Insist that your piercer be a professional in every sense of the word.
Don’t pierce your tongue or lip. The cost of the problems that may be caused by a properly placed oral piercing can be very expensive and painful. If you choose to pierce, against medical advice, don’t do it yourself or have an amateur do it for you. Carefully research your choice of piercer as you would a dentist or physician.
What happened to my young patient? I treated her dental problems. I cleaned her teeth and her tongue stud. I took care of her cavities. She is a successful college student, now. She has removed all of her piercings. Not due to any directives or education from the professionals around her. She decided that she wanted a cleaner, more professional look, and less risk to her oral health.
Dr. David Leader is the Chairman of the Health Advisory Committee of the Lynnfield Schools, a member of the Professional Advisory Committee of Tri-CAP Head Start, and is a member of the Mass Dental Society Council on Dental Care and Benefits Programs.