With oral piercings becoming increasingly popular among young people
in particular, it is important to recognize that lip piercings can
cause a variety of health problems including gum disease. People of
any age who are considering getting their lip pierced should take this
information into account and decide against undergoing the piercing
process for the sake of their oral health. Those who already have a
lip piercing should remove the item from their lip or be aware they
are likely to face a higher risk of gum disease in the future if they
fail to do so.
The British Dental Journal, a prestigious dental industry publication,
recently published a report calling attention to the problem of gum
erosion that results from lip piercings. Dental professionals are well
aware of the fact that lip piercings can cause a person's gums to recede.
Many patients, however, especially those in younger age groups, are not
aware of the health complications that lip piercings can cause.
The report in the British Dental Journal illustrated the problem by
referring to a 30-year-old female patient who had multiple tattoos,
body piercings and upper and lower lip piercings. The woman's lower
lip piercing led to serious erosion in her gum at the base of her left
first incisor, one of the four front teeth on the bottom. The gum recession
was so severe that the tooth grew loose and a significant amount of the
root was visible.
Six years after receiving the lower lip piercing, the woman opted to
remove it for aesthetic reasons. Even then, she was still unconcerned
about how the piercing was negatively affecting her oral health. When
she finally went to the dentist she was informed that the gum erosion,
caused by the piercing in her lower lip, was so severe that it was
irreversible. At this time the dentist strongly suggested that she
remove the piercing in her upper lip, which was already leading to
moderate erosion in the area of the upper left canine.
This woman's situation underscores a larger issue with the regulatory
process for establishments that offer lip piercings and other body
piercings. In many jurisdictions these establishments are required to
provide information about immediate or short-term health risks but not
long-term risks such as the likelihood of gum disease or gum recession.
As oral piercings and other forms of body modification grows in
popularity among young people, adolescents and young adults in
particular should be aware that lip piercings can cause irreversible
gum recession that can lead to tooth loss. Some people have suggested
that wearing surgical grade plastic jewelry in lip piercings rather than
metal jewelry can help avert the problem of gum erosion, but little to
no credible evidence has been published to support that claim.
Unfortunately, information about the risks of oral piercings is often
unsubstantiated hearsay that comes from piercers or their colleagues
rather than from reliable sources in the scientific community. It is
up to medical and dental professionals to advise their patients that
lip piercing can lead to severe problems such as gum recession,
gum disease and tooth loss.
Quynh Bui, D.M.D.
Owner, Redstone Dental, Stoneham, MA