Some teenagers may enjoy the aesthetic appeal of an oral piercing such as a tongue barbell or lip stud, but many may be unaware of the threat this jewelry can pose to dental health. For example, a 2007 study found that 15 to 20 percent of teenagers who sport oral piercings have an increased risk for gum disease and tooth fractures.

Dr Liran Levin, who led the research at Tel Aviv University, explained that these problems may arise due to “repeated trauma” to the mouth and gums. That study’s findings reinforce previous research that linked tongue piercings with receding gums and chipped teeth. Scientists at the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry and Ohio State University College of Dentistry compared different lengths of barbells worn in the tongue and found that subjects with long barbells were more likely to exhibit damage. Meanwhile short barbells were connected with chips in teeth.

Commenting on the findings, president of the American Academy of Periodontology Dr Kenneth Bueltmann said, “I strongly recommend discussing potential risk factors with your dentist before mouth piercing.” He added that those who are already pierced should visit a dentist for “a thorough oral examination” of teeth and gums to assess whether their mouth has suffered any damage.