A pierced lip or tongue may be a fashion statement of youth, but new evidence suggests that oral piercing may lead to receded gums, a sign of age that is the origin of the expression "long in the tooth."
Researchers at Ohio State University in Columbus looked at 58 young adults with an average age between 21 and 22. Half had pierced lips and the other half did not, although both groups were otherwise alike in age and gender.
Among the subjects with a pierced lip, 41.4% had receding gums, although only 6.9% of those without a pierced lip suffered from this periodontal condition. And in the pierced-lip group, recession of the gumline was, on average, twice as deep as it was among those with no pierced lip. The longer a subject had had a pierced lip, the more likely it was that he or she suffered from gum recession.
Tongue piercing also has been connected to receding gums and dental disease, including chipped teeth.
Researchers suspect that it is the trauma of piercing, and of a foreign object moving around inside the mouth, that causes the gum recession and other dental problems. Besides giving an appearance of age, receding gums can lead to sensitivity, which often discourages good dental hygiene. In some cases, it can lead to tooth loss.
The study was reported earlier this month at the convention of the International and American Assn. for Dental Research.