Adolescent Dentistry

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How do oral piercings (of the tongue, lips and/or cheek) affect oral health?

Oral piercings have recently become a more trendy and mainstream form of jewelry, and many parents are considering allowing their teens to pierce their tongues, lips or cheeks. However, the American Dental Association recommends avoiding oral piercings because of the many risks and dangers involved. Possible complications include chipped or cracked teeth, blood clots, blood poisoning, heart infections, brain abscess, nerve disorders (trigeminal neuralgia), receding gums or scar tissue. The mouth contains millions of bacteria, and infection is a common complication of oral piercing. A pierced tongue can swell up large enough to block off the airway and cause the affected person to suffocate.

Common symptoms after piercing include pain, swelling, infection, an increased flow of saliva and injuries to gum tissue. Difficult-to-control bleeding or nerve damage can result if a blood vessel or nerve bundle is in the path of the needle.

How does tobacco use affect oral health?

Tobacco in any form can jeopardize your child’s health and cause incurable damage. Teach your child about the dangers of tobacco.

Smokeless tobacco, also called spit, chew or snuff, is often used by teens who believe that it is a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes. This is an unfortunate misconception. Studies show that spit tobacco may be more addictive than smoking cigarettes and may be more difficult to quit. Teens who use it may be interested to know that one can of snuff per day delivers as much nicotine as 60 cigarettes. In as little as three to four months, smokeless tobacco use can cause periodontal disease and produce pre-cancerous lesions called leukoplakia’s.

If your child is a tobacco user you should watch for the following that could be early signs of oral cancer:

•    A sore that won’t heal.
•    White or red leathery patches on the lips, and on or under the tongue.
•    Pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or lips.
•    Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue; or a change in the way the teeth fit together.

Because the early signs of oral cancer usually are not painful, people often ignore them. If it’s not caught in the early stages, oral cancer can require extensive, sometimes disfiguring, surgery. Even worse, it can kill.

Help your child avoid tobacco in any form. By doing so, they will avoid bringing cancer-causing chemicals in direct contact with their tongue, gums and cheek.