Teens warned not to get oral piercings

Skin piercings might be the rage among teens, but researchers from Tel Aviv University have found good reasons to think twice about piercing one’s tongue or lip.

Dr. Liran Levin, a dentist from the Department of Oral Rehabilitation, School of Dental Medicine at Tel Aviv University has found that about 15 to 20 percent of teens with oral piercings are at high risk for both tooth fractures and gum disease. Resulting tooth fractures as well as periodontal problems, he says, can lead to anterior (front) tooth loss later in life.

High rates of fractures due to piercings are not found in other age groups, and cases of severe periodontal damage in teens without oral piercings are similarly rare, says Dr. Levin, who conducted the study with partners Dr. Yehuda Zadik and Dr. Tal Becker, both dentists in the Israeli Army.

Their initial study was done on 400 young adults aged 18-19, and the results were published in the well-known peer-reviewed journal Dental Traumatology in 2005. A new review by Drs. Levin and Zadik published in the American Dental Journal in late 2007 is the first and largest of its kind to document the risks and complications of oral piercings, drawing on research from multiple centers in America and across the world.

Ten percent of all New York teenagers have some kind of oral piercings, compared to about 20 percent in Israel and 3.4 percent in Finland. Dr. Levin warns teens to think twice before getting an oral piercing, as it can lead to easily preventable health complications and, in some (rare) cases, even death.

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