Ask a Dentist

May 14, 2020

Q: I want to get a tongue or lip piercing, what will that do to my teeth?

Young woman sticking her tongue out, showing off her tongue piercing. She's outside at night with sunglasses on her head.

If you get your tongue or lip pierced, it can have a dramatic effect on your teeth. Tongue and lip piercings can cause tooth movement, tooth erosion, gum recession, cracked teeth and increase bacterial infections.

Tooth Movement

Most people never remove their piercings. For tongue piercings, this is partly because the tongue can quickly heal and close up. But the constant pressure from the piercings against the back or front of the teeth can cause them to loosen and move. This movement can create gaps between your teeth.

Tooth Erosion and Gum Recession

Mouth piercings can wear down the protective layers of your teeth and cause your gums to recede. Through constant contact, the piercings can wear away at tooth enamel. This can increase tooth sensitivity and the chance of getting cavities. The constant contact also occurs on your gums, causing gum recession. When your gums recede, it exposes the roots of your tooth, making it easier for bacteria to build up and cause severe tooth decay. If gums recede too much you can lose the entire tooth. 

Cracked and Chipped Teeth

It’s easy for mouth piercings to get bumped against your teeth, even when simply eating or talking. When the piercing knocks against your teeth it can cause them to chip or crack, especially if your tooth enamel has been worn down. When your tooth chips or cracks, the sensitive layers of the tooth become exposed. Some cracks can extend into the nerve of the tooth and require root canal therapy to fix.

Bacterial Infections

As the piercing is healing, there is a higher risk of getting an infection in your mouth. Your mouth is full of bacteria, which feed off of the sugars in your mouth from the foods you eat. If not cleaned properly, mouth piercings create extra surface area for bacteria to get stuck and grow. Bacterial infections can also increase if tooth enamel is worn away or your teeth get chipped or cracked.

Maintaining and Avoiding Oral Health Problems

If you are getting, or already have a mouth piercing there are steps you can take to prevent problems from occurring. Make sure you maintain good oral hygiene habits. Brush, floss and rinse after eating or drinking acidic and/or sugary beverages. Rinse your mouth regularly (even if it’s just water) to wash away bacteria. Bite carefully and be conscious of where the piercing is hitting your teeth and gum lines.