Imagine your child decides to get her tongue pierced. Then, as if you needed something else to worry about, she starts "playing" with the tiny barbell-shaped stud, by constantly pushing it against her upper front teeth. Then before you know it, she forces a gap between those teeth. Just a fraction of an inch gap that, may likely run you thousands of dollars in orthodontic work to straighten out.
The University at Buffalo researchers recently published a case study on how and why this happens (July issue Journal of Clinical Orthodontics)
"It is a basic tenet of orthodontic that force, over time, moves teeth," explains the study's primary investigator, Sawsan Tabbaa, DDS, MS, assistant professor of orthodontics at the UB School of Dental Medicine.
Tabbaa summarizes that in a previous dental school survey study of Buffalo high school students revealed that the presence of a barbell implant/stud caused a damaging habit whereby subjects pushed the metal stud up against and between their upper front teeth, a habit commonly referred to among the students as "playing."
"And it happened in very high percent of the cases," said Tabbaa. That repeated "playing" with the stud may result in a gap as was shown in this case study.
The study involved a 26- year-old female patient examined at University at Buffalo's orthodontic clinic who complained that a large space began to appear between her upper front teeth. The patient also had a tongue piercing that held a barbell-shaped tongue stud.
The patient’s tongue was pierced seven years earlier and every day for seven years she had pushed the stud between her upper front teeth, creating a space between them and, subsequently, habitually placing it in the space. The patient did not have a space between her upper front teeth prior to the tongue piercing.
The barbell is never removed because the tongue is so vascular that leaving the stud out can result in healing of the opening in the tongue, said Tabbaa, "so it makes perfect sense that constant pushing of the stud against the teeth, every day with no break, will move them or drive them apart."
The patient provided the research team with photos that showed she had no space, prior to having her tongue pierced. For the purposes of treating this patient's space, it was assumed that by placing the tongue stud between her teeth or "playing" caused the midline space. Subsequently her treatment involved a fixed braces appliance to push the front teeth back together.
Tongue piercing can result in serious injury not just to teeth but has also been associated with hemorrhage, infection, chipped and fractured teeth, trauma to the gums and, in the worst cases, brain abscess, said Tabbaa. "The best way to protect your health, your teeth and your money is to avoid tongue piercing."