Occasionally, a patient will ask me if whitening can damage their teeth. Damage may be prevented with certain precautions. Before whitening, have your dentist repair any cavities or fractures you may have, or whitening might make them worse. The main ingredient in whiteners is either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide (another form of hydrogen peroxide). They come in varying percentages. The higher the percentage, the quicker the whitening process, but the higher the incidence of teeth sensitivity. [Read more...]
Piercings of the tongue, lip, or cheek are very popular in all age groups, but piercings can be linked to health risks. Hygienists have to educate patients before, during and after oral piercings. Though as hygienists we can discuss and discourage a patient for proceeding with any oral piercings, but in the end it is the patients’ decision. As hygienists we have to educate our patients how to care for the piercings once he or she has acquired one or several. Following piercing of the tongue swelling occurs that can be severe that may block the airway and make breathing problematic.
During the first stages of piercings and throughout the lifetime of the piercing “vast amount of bacteria in the mouth, and the introduction of additional bacteria from handling the jewelry all work to increase the risk of infections” (p. 1, WebMd, 2013). Many diseases can be acquired through piercings such as Hepatitis B and C. With the piercings changes of bacteria entering the bloodstream could lead to endocarditis which can cause harm to the heart in the future.
A higher risk of gum disease because of the increased bacterial count around the jewelry placed on the tongue and lip. Over time the gingival disease (periodontal disease) “causes recession of the gum tissue, which can lead to loose teeth and tooth loss” (p. 1, WebMd, 2013). The types of materials such as metal vs plastic may vary in the damage to the oral cavity, but “”No matter what material [the stud] is made of, it’s going to hit the back of the front teeth,” said Dr. Ruchi Nijjar Sahota, a dentist in Fremont, Calif. “Most of the patients I’ve seen have developed either a gum infection or had some sort of trauma to their teeth because of the tongue ring” (Higgins, 2011).
Teeth can be damaged through contact with the piercings such as chipping and cracking of tooth structure. “A study published in the March 2002 issue of the Journal of Periodontology, for example, reported on 52 young adults who had had their tongues pierced. Among those who had had a tongue stud for four or more years, 35 percent had recessed gums, and in those who wore long-stemmed barbells for two or more years, 50 percent had gum recession” (2010, Mitchell).
In addition chipped teeth occurred in “47 percent of the subjects who had had a barbell for four or more years. According to the American Academy of Periodontology 2001-02, “anyone with a pierced mouth should receive a thorough oral examination of their gums and teeth to identify problem areas. Taking precautions now will increase your chance of keeping your teeth for a lifetime” (2010, Mitchell).
Piercings can cause problems in every day function including speech, difficult chewing, and increased saliva production (drooling). Aspiration of the jewelry is another concern that will cause injury if lodged in the lungs or injury to the digestive tract. Lastly an allergy to the metals in the jewelry can cause a hypersensitive reaction called dermatitis.
If oral piercings are ultimately something a patient wants to do than precautions should be taken prior and after the piercings. Make sure the piercing studio has up-dated health certificates, autoclaves, sterilized needles, jewelry and sterilization packaging is in the studio and staff members are vaccinated against Hepatitis B. If there are any hesitations in the staff answers or they cannot answer questions one needs to consider another establishment.
Warning signs to notice after oral piercing are as follows:
Discharges that are yellow or green coming from the piercing site is not normal. Clear or white discharge is normal. Thickness of tissue building up around the oral piercing that turns color. Keratinization or white scarring is normal. Redness, abscess, and tenderness with pain or increased tenderness contact and visit your local dentist.
Caring for the piercing includes avoiding spicy foods, alcohol, smoking and any tobacco products. Rinse with Salt water rinses until piercing wound heals and brush after meals. After healing continue brushing after every meal and using non-alcohol mouth rinses such as Listerine Zero or Crest Pro-health rinse and keep regular appointments with your hygienist.
Higgins, C., (January 19, 2011). U.S. News, Health. “Metal Tongue Piercings Linked to Raised
Infection” Retrieved July 11, 2013 from: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/childrens-health/articles/2011/01/19/metal-tongue-piercings-linked-to-raised-infection-risks
Mitchell, Deborah, (2010, August 3). Tongue Piercings Can Cause Tooth Gaps and Chips (para 6 and 7).
Retrieved July 11, 2013 from: http://www.emaxhealth.com/1275/tongue-piercings-can-cause-tooth-gaps-chips
WebMd (2013), Dental Health and Oral Piercing (p. 1). Retrieved July 11, 2013 from
Nancy Costa-Larson, RDH, BS, MHA has worked in the dental field for 20+ years as well as the medical community for 3 years. She works as an active clinician and Practice Manager in Birmingham Alabama working with students and training from local colleges toward careers in the dental community. Nancy was a delegate in the Massachusetts Hygiene Association Board. She received an Associate in Science in Hygiene at the Springfield Community College, Bachelor of Science in Business at University of Phoenix, Tampa, and a Master’s in Healthcare Science Administration from Argosy University in Florida. Nancy has written for the Dental Hygiene Tribune (International) and profiles in ACCESS Magazine. Contact info: Whitesmiles4you@gmail or LinkedIn