January 1, 2011

Oral Art: Decorations or What?

Humans have marked their bodies with tattoos for thousands of years. These permanent designs—sometimes plain, sometimes elaborate, always personal—have served as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and even forms of punishment.

What is the earliest evidence of tattoos?

In terms of tattoos on actual bodies, the earliest known examples were for a long time Egyptian and were present on several female mummies dated to c. 2000 B.C.  But following the more recent discovery of the “Iceman” from the area of the Italian-Austrian border in 1991 and his tattoo patterns, this date has been pushed back a further thousand years when he was carbon-dated at around 3200 B.C.

Read more: www.smithsonianmag.com

Body Piercing:

Nose piercing was first recorded in the Middle East approximately 2000 B.C.  It is mentioned in The Bible in Genesis 24:22 Abraham requested his oldest servant to find a wife for his son Isaac.  The servant found Rebekah, and as one of the gifts he gave to her was a “golden earring”.  Supposedly, the original Hebrew word used was “Shanf”, which some sources said it translates into “nose-ring”, but I cannot find it anywhere in the Jewish/Hebrew literature.

Tongue piercing was practiced in a ritual form by the ancient Aztecs, Mayas of Central America, the Haida, Kwakiutul, and Tlinglit tribes of the American Northwest. The tongue was pierced to draw blood to propitiate the gods, and to create an altered state of consciousness so that the priest or shaman could communicate with the gods.

Tongue piercing is one of the most popular piercings today.  It’s shocking, provocative, but at the same time no one needs to know you have it. Janet Jackson, Keith Flint from Prodigy, Mel B from the Spice Girls and Malcolm Jamahl Warner from the Cosby show all sport pierced tongues.

Read more: www.painfulpleasures.com

Today it is not uncommon to see one of my patients come in with some kind of body piercing or tattoo.  Not to the extent seen above, thank goodness!  It is no big deal to see anyone, male or female, with an earring, but other parts of the face are being pierced more and more everyday.  Some of the more subtle body piercing that can be seen at any age is the small nose stud that is easily taken in and out because it is just slid in with a gentile hook.  Others are an eyebrow rings, lips rings/studs, and tongue rings.

Problems can arise with body piercings that require medical/dental assistance. Bacterial/viral infections, residual scarring, bacterial endocarditis, and trauma are a few of the complications involving ornamental body mutilation.

This is an infection that happened with a tongue ring.  The ring had to be removed and treated with antibiotics.  If the infection spreads to the area below the tongue a life treating medical condition called Ludwig’s Angina could form.  Other common problems with tongue rings involve tooth trauma.  We have had several incidences of teeth being chipped due to tongue rings at our office.  Fillings, crowns, periodontal disease, and root canals are a result of many mishaps with metal object being placed in the mouth.  That is why if you have to have a tongue ring, make sure it is as plastic as possible.  Good thing most of our patient usually grow out of tongue and other visible body piercings as they enter the market place.

Another of the more dangerous infections you can get from getting body piercings and tattoos are hepatitis B and C.  They are usually spreads through contact with infected blood, saliva and other body fluids. It can also spread through sex with an infected person and from mother to baby during childbirth. Chronic HBV/HCV can lead to scarring of the liver, liver failure or liver cancer.  Most people who are infected with hepatitis C don’t have any symptoms for years.

Sometimes people want the craziest things not only pierced or tattooed onto their bodies, but on their teeth.  I can remember back in the early 1990’s when a patient came in wanting his brand new crown he had just gotten from a Californian dentist, FIXED! I looked in his mouth and there on the facial surface of his upper right canine was a bright green 4 leafed clover.  He said the dentist out in California told him it was all the rage to have a tiny little mural of something personal baked right into the outer surface of porcelain crowns.  He said he had a long proud heritage of being an Irishman, and wanted a lucky 4 leafed clover on his tooth.  The day he got the crown delivered he said his problems started.  He said that everywhere he went, personal friends and complete strangers would notice his tooth.  He said people would tell him he had something stuck in his teeth and he had to explain to them that it was a little mural of a 4 leafed clover permanently baked onto his tooth.  He said after telling about a hundred people about why he had green on his tooth and receiving a hundred blank looks of “why would anyone want that on their tooth”, he wanted it off.  He didn’t care if I had to remake the whole thing, he wanted it off that DAY! Fortunately, I could just remove the outer layer of the porcelain glaze and polish up the porcelain to his satisfaction without too much trouble.

I actually found a dental office in Nebraska that will tell you everything you need to know about how to place “tattooth” dental artwork in someones mouth.  Knock yourself out!