The best known mouth decorations are piercings, which may be inserted in the lip or the tongue. Also used are false diamonds, generally made in glass, glued to the teeth.
These have been popular for years, particularly with young people, although in fact they are only new to people in the west, i.e. Europeans and Americans. In different cultures of the world piercings are habitually used as a sign of beauty and distinction.
Until recently, in our country the only kind of traditional piercing was ear piercing, which was always carried out on new born girls so that they could later wear earrings.
In Europe, like tattoos, piercings in different parts of the body were generally used by sailors and people of intense and not always lawful lifestyle. They are therefore a highly attractive way of showing rebelliousness and refusal to toe the line.
Particular features of Mouth Piercings
Unlike ear piercings, which rarely cause problems, mouth piercings perforate muscle and epithelial tissue to end up in the mouth, a sceptic cavity full of germs in which movement is constant.
Piercings can cause infection or traumatisms by knocking against the teeth and gums while chewing and speaking.
Perforating the lip or tongue to take the piercing is a process which must be carried out carefully, in antiseptic conditions, following the usual procedure of disinfection for all minor surgeries: using sterile material, anaesthesia, gloves and a mask.
In some cases of adverse bacterial atmosphere due to gum disease, heavy smoking or poor hygiene, antibiotics must be taken during and after the operation.
We must also remember that both the tongue and the lip have heavy blood flow, meaning that they have a strong tendency to bleed.
Incidents during the operation
- The patient could bleed heavily, although the flow is normally kept under good control. It is important that the patient has no problems with coagulation, and that they are not taking blood thinners or antiplatelet drugs such as aspirin.
- It is important for the patient to stay as still as possible so as not to swallow the jewellery to be inserted in the piercing. It is highly unlikely that this will happen; however, if it is swallowed, there should be no problem as it would simply come out the other end of the digestive tube. But if it is long and sharp like some tongue jewellery, it could stick in the digestive tube and cause an infection, in which case its evolution would have to be controlled until it was expelled.
However, if it is inhaled, it would stick in the bronchial tubes, making breathing difficult. In this case, the patient would have to have it removed in hospital by means of a bronchoscopy.
- The area could become infected either due to bacteria in the mouth or because the jewellery inserted hadn’t been properly sterilised. This would cause the lips to swell painfully so that the patient would suffer discomfort and difficult when speaking, chewing and swallowing.
In this case they would have to take antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication.
To prevent infection, a mouthwash of 0.12% chlorhexidine should be used before, during and after the operation. The same mouthwash should be used after every meal, three times a day, for a week.
- Some people may show intolerance to or reject the material of the piercing jewellery. This may be because they are allergic to metal, above all nickel, as can happen with earrings. Some people can only wear gold or silver, nothing else.
Complications in the long-medium term
- Fibrous scar tissue may occur around the piercing. This is when the tongue or lip around the piercing thicken to form a whitish scar. Sometimes the piercing seems to have sunk into the thickened tissue and is barely visible.
- Given their constant movement, traumatisms may occur in the mouth or gums. This happens above all in the case of lip piercings. Metal constantly knocking against a tooth may wear it down gradually and sometimes even break it.
- Sometimes, due to constant knocks by the piercing, the gum recedes, so that the root of the tooth, no longer covered by the gum, starts to appear. In these cases we can see the root, meaning that the tooth in question will look longer than the others with a rather unattractive result. With time, if not brushed well enough or in the case of heavy smokers, both gum and bone can be lost, potentially leading to the loss of a tooth, particularly in the case of a bottom incisor, which is relatively weak. Fortunately this occurs very rarely given that most of those who wear piercings are aware of the danger and maintain good oral and dental hygiene.
Piercings can often be a rather attractive aesthetic choice, but they also require care to keep them healthy.
These are pieces of jewellery which either can be transparent like diamonds or coloured like precious gems. In theory you could use a real diamond or precious gem, but it would be highly costly if it came loose, got lost or was swallowed.
These appliques are glued to the tooth in the same way and with the same products as orthodontic brackets. In fact, they are made with a same flat back as brackets to guarantee that they will stick to the enamel surface of the tooth.
They are normally glued to the top incisors or canines, which are the ones we show most on smiling, and is where they will have the greatest effect. In addition, given that these teeth have a rather flat surface, they will stick better than they would to the curved surface of the other teeth.
A drop of orthophosphoric acid is placed on the enamel for 1 minute, then thoroughly rinsed with water and dried. The liquid adhesive is placed both on the tooth and on the gem and polymerised with UV light. The remains of the adhesive are removed with a rubber polishing drill.
The applique is never embedded in the tooth as it would mean that a hole would have to be drilled into the ceramic to take the gem. This makes no sense, since it means damaging the tooth for no reason. Also in this case, dental plaque could form in the cavity and perhaps cause tooth decay.
At some time in the past, such-and-such an artist had a diamond embedded in their tooth, but they did so in a porcelain crown or veneer which replaced another that had already existed on the same tooth.
Here the usual hygiene standards of dental clinics must be applied in the same way as for all other treatments
The duration depends on the technique, on the quality of the surface decorated and on the care taken with food and when eating. People with tooth decorations must try not to eat sticky chewing gum or food. The higher up the gem is placed, the better it will respond to biting hard food and the longer it will last.
The acidity of the saliva also influences the result. Normally, if a little care is taken, it will last for more than a year.
Sometimes, in sensitive adults, the gem may cut their lip or cheek. If this happens more than once, it should be removed and placed in a different part of the mouth.
If the “gem” disappears and you think you may have swallowed it, don’t worry, it’ll come out with the rest of the food.
Whether it falls off by itself, or if you have had it taken off, the remains of the adhesive must be removed from your teeth. Otherwise, they will darken in colour and leave an ugly stain, even causing a little tooth decay with time.
Mouth piercings and decorations must be applied with the same care as other odontological treatments.