Piercing Warning

The Dangers of Tongue Piercing

The piercing fad may come and go, but for people with pierced tongues, adverse effects could last a lifetime. The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) reported that tongue piercing can result in chipped teeth, infections, nerve and gum damage, drooling, taste loss, and tooth loss. Irritation from the barbell-shaped jewelry could result in periodontal disease or oral cancer. So while it may be fun for a teen to wag a pierced tongue in hopes of disapproval from conventional society, damaged and missing teeth, disease, and life-threatening cancer are far from cool.

Tongue Piercing: The Image Risk

Forty-seven percent of people who have worn tongue jewelry for four or more years have chipped teeth. This kind of damage can eventually send people to the dentist for fillings, crowns, root canals, or extractions. At eighteen, looking cool means a lot, but image is important in the business world, too. Because tongue jewelry can chip teeth, wearers may have to spend thousands of dollars on dental procedures to regain the smile they'll want later in life, the smile that can help them earn the money and achieve the success that will shape their adult lives.

Tongue Piercing: The Health Risk

The tongue is covered with bacteria, and when pierced, that bacteria can get in the bloodstream and underlying tongue tissues. This can cause serious infections. Unfortunately, tongue jewelry wearers may not be aware of a problem since the symptoms of infection, such as swelling, are similar to the aftereffects of piercing.

Furthermore, dentists have reported a rise in cases of Ludwigs angina, a severe infection of the floor of the mouth and jaws, in patients with tongue piercings. When Ludwigs angina occurs, the tongue may swell so much that it inhibits breathing. Another condition afflicting patients with pierced tongues is endocarditis, a disease caused when bacteria enters the bloodstream and infects and weakens heart valves. Since the tongue repeatedly rubs against the same areas, people with tongue piercings may develop mouth ulcers from constant irritation. These ulcers can result in oral cancer. Precancerous ulcers can only be detected during an oral cancer screening by the dentist.

Another problem that concerns the AGD is that few standards for body piercers exist. Dental offices adhere to strict OSHA and CDC guidelines for sterilization and infection control. How clean are the tools a piercing studio uses? You can't be sure they're clean at all. Contaminated piercing tools can put people at risk for serious infections like hepatitis and HIV.

Tongue Piercing: Avoiding the Risks

If you still want to have your tongue pierced, we strongly encourage you to reconsider. However, if these statistics and risks haven't changed your mind, follow a few precautionary guidelines to protect your oral and overall health:

  • Choose a reputable piercing studio. Ask about sterilization procedures, and make sure you're comfortable with the level of infection control the studio practices.
  • Ask your piercer about after care, and follow cleaning instructions to the letter. Rinse with mouthwash multiple times daily, and brush your teeth and tongue jewelry to remove plaque.
  • Purchase a starter barbell made from surgical stainless steel to prevent an allergic reaction. Jewelry with plastic balls are gentler on teeth and oral tissues.
  • Once your tongue is pierced, the AGD recommends that you don't touch the piercing since this can cause infection from bacteria on your fingers. If you see any sign of infection, see your dentist immediately.
  • People with pierced tongues should practice a stellar oral hygiene regimen.
  • Always remove the jewelry when eating or sleeping to avoid damaging teeth and oral tissues.
  • Piercing parlors sell plastic plugs to retain the piercing when jewelry is not worn.
  • Most importantly, people with pierced tongues should see a dentist regularly to make sure tongue and teeth stay healthy.

Contact Us

1929 Russel Road, Suite 110, Ottawa, ON K1G 4G3 CAN
Dr. Edmund Merkley Ottawa Ontario Canada dentist (613) 521-2650 smythdentalcentre@rogers.com