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Posts for: April, 2013

By Downtown Dental Center
April 20, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
OralPiercingsFiveThingsYouShouldKnow

Whether you think they're the height of fashion or the depth of “ice,” oral piercings like tongue bolts are a sign of our times. But along with these bodily adornments come a host of questions about risks to the wearer's health, both immediate and long-term. To help sort out these concerns, here are five facts everyone ought to know about oral piercings.

Oral piercings can cause acute health problems.

Rarely, nerve problems may result from an oral piercing. In at least one case, a teenager who had just gotten a tongue bolt developed severe facial pain and the feeling of electrical shocks. A neurologist traced these symptoms to an irritated nerve in the tongue, and the bolt's removal made the pain go away. More commonly, however, the immediate problems are soreness in the area of the piercing, bleeding in the mouth, and the risk of infection.

Oral piercings can lead to gum disease.

Periodontal problems associated with oral piercings include gum recession, inflammation, and even infection. Long-term bone loss may also be an issue. Over time, all of these conditions may affect a person's general health.

Oral piercings can lead to tooth problems.

Tooth pain and sensitivity are sometimes reported after the installation of an oral piercing. Chipping of the teeth is also a possibility, due to repeated contact with the metal of the ornament. People who decide to wear oral piercings should consult with us about increasing the frequency of their dental checkups.

Closing the hole left by a tongue piercing may require minor surgery.

As is the case with an ear piercing, the hole made for a tongue bolt often closes on its own. If it doesn't, a little surgery may be required to help it. In some cases, the tissue around the piercing may need to be removed before the hole itself can be sewn closed. Carried out under local anesthesia (a numbing shot), however, the procedure is usually simple and quick to heal.

Removing an oral piercing improves your oral health.

Losing the piercing reduces your risk factors, and thus improves your oral health. It's as simple as that. But any decision about oral piercings is ultimately yours to make. You should have a frank conversation about its risks and benefits with a knowledgeable health professional.

If you would like more information about oral piercings, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “How Oral Piercings Affect Your Oral Health,” and “Body Piercings and Teeth.”


ActorEdHelmsTooth-YankingTrickItWasaDentalImplant

The lengths that some comedians will go to for a laugh! Actor Ed Helms, as dentist Stu Price, pulled out his own tooth in the movie The Hangover. Or did he? Turns out Helms really is missing a tooth, which never grew in. When he was in his late teens, he received a dental implant to make his smile look completely natural.

Helms told People magazine he wasn't exactly eager to remove the implant crown that had served him so well for almost 20 years, but there was no better way to do the famous tooth-pulling scene.

“We started to do different tests with prosthetics and blacking it out and nothing worked,” Helms told the magazine. Helms' dentist said it would be okay to take the implant crown out. “My dentist was really into it,” Helms said. The rest is movie history!

Congenitally missing (“con” – together with; “genital” – relating to birth) teeth are inherited and actually quite common. More than 20% of people lack one or more wisdom teeth, for example. These would not usually be replaced if missing (in fact, wisdom teeth are often removed) but it's a more serious issue when the missing tooth is in the front of the mouth — and not just for aesthetic reasons.

When a particular type of tooth is missing, it disrupts the pattern and function of the teeth. If left alone, sometimes the existing teeth will shift to close the gap. It's like removing a brick from an arch — the rest of the bricks would fall together in a different formation (or collapse entirely). And when upper and lower teeth don't come together properly, they can't function well.

The best treatment for this type of situation is the one Ed Helms had: a dental implant. They look and function like real teeth and do not attach to or damage adjacent teeth as other tooth-replacement options might.

It is important that a child with a congenitally missing tooth wait until jaw growth is complete — different for every person but usually in the late teens — before getting an implant. Otherwise, the artificial tooth might eventually appear too short when the person has stopped growing. In the meantime, there are temporary tooth replacements that can be made.

If you would like more information about options for congenitally missing teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “When Permanent Teeth Don't Grow.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Teenagers & Dental Implants.”