My grandmother took me to get my ears pierced when I was seventeen. (I had finally convinced my dad that God would still love me if I had holes in my ears)! We went to Pomeroys in the Berkshire Mall, where I believe they had a nurse come once a month to do ear piercing. I remember waiting in line in front of the make-up counter. A year later, I went back to have a second hole put in one of my ears (I was a real rebel!).
Today, it seems like you can get practically any part of your body pierced. I recently had the opportunity to attend a course entitled: “Oral Piercing and Body Modifications,” taught by Betsy Reynolds, RDH, MS. Ms. Reynolds is not only a dental hygienist, but she is also an international speaker and a member of the Association of Professional Piercers (AAP).
Since I only have my ears pierced, I did not have any first-hand knowledge of this topic and was anxious to learn more about it.
And boy, were my eyes opened!
Did you know that there are no state regulations or licensing for oral piercings and body modifications? You can walk into the mall and have an employee (who has no credentials) poke holes in your body or your child’s body. I hate to admit it, but this is what I did for my daughter. We went to the mall, I signed a release form without really reading it, didn’t ask any questions and picked a pair of piercing earrings. They used a piercing gun and she got her ears pierced. Not sure what I was thinking, especially since my co-workers would tell you I’m the “Infection Control Drill Sergeant” in our office!
Professional piercers would love to have regulations and be professionally licensed, so in the meantime they have established the Association of Professional Piercers (APP). According to APP’s website, they are an international health and safety organization. If you are interested in getting a piercing, I would check out their website at www.safepiercing.org. In order to be a member, there are strict criteria that must be met, some of them being: a current bloodborne pathogen training certificate, a current CPR/first aid training certificate, and the usage of an acceptable autoclave/sterilizer with monthly third-party spore testing documentation. And, absolutely no gun piercing, as this is not a safe or effective way to pierce! When I read their requirements for cleanliness and infection control, I realized it isn’t much different than the standards for our dental office. Unfortunately, there aren’t any piercers in Berks County that are members of the AAP. The closest is in Allentown, and there are several in the Philadelphia area. If you’re not willing to travel, then I would go to www.safepiercing.org, read their standards and visit a local piercer – and be ready with questions. I would ask if they have infection control training, where their autoclave (sterilizer) is and when the last time was that it was tested.
Karen, my fellow hygienist at Boulevard Dental, also attended this seminar. She learned that piercings can be done safely, but that they can be very dangerous if done incorrectly. (Our head contains some very important veins and nerves that we don’t want to damage)! We were taught how to evaluate a piercing for cleanliness, infections, and whether it was placed correctly in an area that will not cause harm to the surrounding area and if the jewelry itself is appropriate. For example, for a tongue piercing, if the barbell is too long, it is more likely to chip teeth or cause recession of your gums from rubbing against the back of your teeth. Also, an external threaded piece of jewelry can be a place to harbor bacteria.
So, the next time you think about getting a piercing, do your homework, ask questions and don’t go to the mall! Most importantly, I learned that I should not question why someone got a piercing because everybody has a right to express themselves in their own way, as long as it is not harmful to anyone else. So, I welcome those with multiple piercings to come to Boulevard Dental for their dental needs where they will be met by non-judgmental professionals who have their best interests at heart!
Teresa Hanna, RDH
Betsy Reynolds, RDH, BS, “Oral Piercing and Body Modifications,” Lancaster Bible College, Lancaster, PA. September 21, 2019.
Requirements for membership: Association of Professional Piercers. website: https//safepiercing.org. Accessed November 10, 2019.