Two reasons why a dentist might ask a patient to remove their tongue piercing jewellery

Posted on: 15 September 2019

Most people who have tongue piercings prefer not to remove the jewellery that they wear in them, as doing so can result in the piercing closing up. However, if a person with this type of piercing needs to go for dental treatment, their dentist might ask them to remove their piercing jewellery before the appointment. Here are two specific reasons why dentists sometimes need to make this request:

Because they need to x-ray the patient's mouth

If a patient is experiencing dental problems that are affecting sections of their teeth that are under their gum line (for example, if they have an impacted wisdom tooth) or if they are thought to have visually inaccessible oral masses (such as tumours), their dentist will usually need to x-ray their mouth in order to ascertain the exact nature of the problem. They can then devise the right type of treatment plan to rectify it.

A patient who needs to get this type of x-ray will usually be asked to take out their tongue piercing jewellery. The reason for this is that most oral piercing jewellery is made up entirely or partially of metal. On an x-ray, any metal item will show up as a white blob. This 'blob' could obscure some or all of the section of the mouth (depending on what position the patient has their tongue in during the x-raying process) that the dentist needs to examine on the x-ray. As such, before taking a dental x-ray a dentist will almost always instruct their patient to remove their oral jewellery, as this is the best way to ensure that the resulting x-ray provides a clear image of their mouth that they can use to diagnose and resolve the patient's dental issue.

Because they need to do a scale-and-polish treatment

Another scenario which might require a dentist to make this request is if they need to do a scale-and-polish (i.e. a deep clean of the patient's teeth). The reason for this is that when providing this treatment, they usually need to use a suction device that is known as a 'saliva ejector'; as its name suggests, this tool sucks excess saliva out of the patient's mouth during the treatment, and in doing so stops this fluid from getting in the dentist's way whilst they are cleaning the person's teeth.

If a person were to wear their tongue piercing jewellery whilst the dentist was using this device, there is a risk that the piercing could be pulled towards this suction tool. This could be very painful and alarming for the patient and could even potentially cause their jewellery to break. Because of this, it would be best for a patient who requires this treatment to remove the jewellery prior to their appointment.