What Your Dentist Wants You to Know About Your Oral Piercings
Fun at the Dentist…I Think Not
With the continued popularity of oral piercings, both traditional single tongue piercings to the more recent smiley piercings, we thought it was about time we did a quick refresher on how to keep those pearly whites of your in tip top shape and harmonious with your piercings.
After searching through dental documents, studies and beyond, here are some things that you dentists or hygienist has not had a chance to tell you but is helpful to know. Going to the dentists doesn’t quite top the charts of favorite things to do, so we’ll help you prep for you, your lip piercings and/or oral piercings for your next visit in the hot seat.
Take it out or leave it in?
Regardless of which piercing or piercings you have in your mouth, the general consensus is that taking it out is a pain in the @ss. So should I bother taking out my piercing jewelry or leave it to doc to deal with it? Well, that really depends on what you are going in for.
A routine cleaning, although preferred, does not require you to remove your piercings. For the most part, the hygienist can take extra caution and place a barrier over the piercing during cleanings if you have a new piercing that is too fresh to remove the jewelry, even for short periods of time.
Every 3-5 years, a dentist will take a whole mouth x-ray, known as a panoramic x-ray. This helps them to see both the upper and lower jaw and the surrounding bone health. If steel body jewelry is present in or around the mouth AND/OR in the ears at the time of the x-ray, distortion will be present on the film. It doesn’t make the film useless, however, it’s your health and every effort to give your doc an accurate diagnostic tool to make sure you are at tip top health is a no a bad idea.
Retainers : Not the Metal Kind You Wear After Braces
If you have had your piercing for over 6 months and are comfortable switching out the jewelry, there are many different types of piercing retainers that are made of acrylic or even flexible plastic that might be better suited for your dental visits. These can be left in for both x-rays and other types of diagnostic scans since there is no meta present. Soft tissue scans may require removal, however uncommon for dental visits.
Having a few piercing retainers on hand is always a good idea, not only for dental visits but any time you need a break from metal jewelry. Piercing retainers are usually clear or flesh colored and come in a variety of sizes, lengths, and gauges, much like your regular piercing jewelry. Many are also low profile, meaning that they protrude less from the skin – this will make it easier for your dentist or hygienist to probe around without bumping into or getting caught on your piercing jewelry.
That white stuff on my jewelry is what?!?!!!
Once you get your pearly whites cleaned, there’s still a few things you should be aware of… such as cleaning your body jewelry properly. Just like your teeth, over time, your body jewelry can collect plaque on its surfaces. If not removed, this become a hardened deposit called calculus. Unlike plaque, calculus will not wipe off easily from your body jewelry.
They usually appear as white or off white stains on your surgical steel jewelry that come in contact with saliva. It is seen most commonly on barbells for tongue piercings. To remove these deposits, you’ll need to clean it aggressively with abrasion to remove it. Once you notice white build up that is in or around the screw parts, bar, or beads on your body jewelry, it’s probably time to replace the jewelry. The best maintenance of your surgical steel body jewelry for calculus build up is prevention. (Yep, just like your teeth.) Take out your jewelry and examine it often – make sure that the steel is shiny, free of bumps and lumps, and give it a good scrubbing under warm water with an old tooth brush then rinse well.
Caring for you Pearly Whites – DON’T DO THIS….EVER.
If you love your big, pearly whites there are just some things you should never do. If you are a tongue fidget-er and like to run your barbell or other body jewelry along your teeth, you risk chipping your teeth. Small chips at the occlusal surfaces (chewing surface or the tips of your teeth) can be the first places you notice chips. Larger chips or broken teeth surfaced can occur at any time if this is a normal practice for you. Either you can train you tongue to eliminate or reduce the habit of “clicking” your tongue piercing jewelry across your teeth, or you can simply switch to a softer body jewelry, such as acrylic. Getting veneers or crowns to replace chipped or broken teeth a MAJOR financial investment….we’re talking $2000 per tooth or higher.
Instead, Do This
Second, most people think that after the initial healing period, that their risk for infection is a thing of the past. Although healed piercings are less prone to infections, they can occur at ANY time. We take such good care of our piercings when they are new, but it heals and the newness wears off, we tend to slide on care at times (we are all guilt of this!) – Keep your oral piercings happy and healthy by checking them regularly and keeping them clean. We’ve come a long way since the days of burning Listerine so keep those oral piercings healthy with some of newer, less intense alternatives.