What to Do With an Infected Oral Piercing

Although piercings of the areas in and around the oral cavity have become part of fashion, they can produce complications. Individuals outside health care professions usually perform body piercings, but states regulate the facilities. Regulations will vary by state, but most piercings of body parts are considered safe and without significant complications, though sometimes problems arise. These include an infected piercing. Here's what could happen and how to prepare for it.

Immediate Complications

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), you may experience pain and swelling, damage to gums, sensitivity to metals, excessive drooling and possible nerve damage. It may also impede care when visiting the dentist for checkups. Immediate complications can also include: bleeding, airway obstruction, overgrown tissue around the jewelry and infection.

Signs of infection include chills, fever and a red rash around the piercing. Most of the time, the complication can be managed on an outpatient basis. The infected piercing usually does not require removal of the jewelry, as it's best to leave it in place so as not to close off the opening. Local debridement of the site and systemic antibiotics may be necessary.

The complication may sometimes require a trip to the hospital, especially if there's severe bleeding and swelling that can compromise the airway and your breathing. You should also see a doctor if the infection has spread beyond the oral cavity. Patients with certain heart conditions should consult their physician prior to the oral piercing to see if antibiotics should be taken about an hour before the procedure or if there are any other concerns regarding their condition.

Long-Term Complications

Dental problems can develop over time, including the fracture and wear of teeth, increased salivation, gum recession and trauma. Speech issues and aspiration of the jewelry are also possible. These side effects will require treatment by a dentist or dental hygienist to correct. Once you have had an oral piercing, regular checkups by your dentist and hygienist should be scheduled. After correcting a dental problem, the jewelry type may need to be changed to another style or completely removed so as not to cause the problem again.

Maintenance of Piercings

A specialist or dentist will recommend the jewelry be kept clean in the oral cavity, and an overall high level of dental hygiene is desirable. Use a new toothbrush such as the Colgate® Plus Toothbrush after you get your piercing and avoid food from hitting the jewelry by placing food right in front of your molars. Before you or a family member has an oral piercing, you should consult your dentist about the pros and cons of the procedure so you can make an educated decision. It is your oral health.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.