A CORK hygienist has issued a stark warning on tongue piercings after identifying extreme damage to a patient's mouth.
Rebecca Pearson from Little Island Dental Surgery raised concerns with a young patient after noticing her gums were receding in a way that normally results from a foreign object.
After requesting permission to capture the image on her phone, Rebecca was able to show her patient the damage caused by a seemingly innocuous piercing.
Ms Pearson explained that the patient had the piercing for 10 years. However, she did not realise it was the direct cause of her gum recession.
The hygienist explained that if it had not been spotted, the effects may have been even more shocking.
"There's a chance that if this had been spotted in another few years it would have been a very different conversation. It would have kept receding," she said of the patient's gums.
"There is no way that this would have been the limit because it's quite local. The piercing might have done damage to the hard tissue (the tooth). When you have recession you expose the dentine and the dentine is a lot more porous than your enamel. It's difficult to say what might have happened but something like this can definitely result in tooth loss."
Rebecca hopes that her words of advice will make other people with piercings more aware of the potential damage caused by piercings.
"The patient was very young so this was quite drastic for her age. When I showed the patient the damage she was shocked and promised to take the piercing out when she got home. People who are getting their tongues pierced are often told to change to the plastic after a certain time period, but they don't tell you why.
"On this occasion, she had the plastic but it still resulted in damage. This was caused solely by the mechanical action of the ball touching the gum. Your gums are like the foundation of a house. If that house is not strong it can result in extreme damage."
She stressed that patients in this situation should not blame themselves.
"In the case of this patient, it wasn't her fault. You never hear of people being told to be aware of their gums and teeth when getting a piercing done. Luckily she will be able to live with the recession as long as she keeps up the regulations and the teeth are kept clean, but this is something we all need to be aware of."
Ms Pearson is currently providing advice on oral hygiene through her Instagram page The tooth scoop. To find out more about Rebecca Pearson and The Tooth scoop visit https://www.instagram.com/the_tooth_scoop/