Child's Dentist Explains Problem with Tongue Piercing: How It Damages The Mouth

Tongue piercing carries some very serious risks. It can cause a wide range of problems, some even permanent. The pain from the piercing itself might be much more than temporary. It can actually get worse because of excessive swelling and infection and require medical treatment.

The mouth is a hard place to sterilize, so infections are common. Piercing establishments don't always maintain a sterile environment either. They are not regulated by law and many operators are not even licensed. The piercing operator might not be experienced or be thinking of your health and safety. He or she may not even know that the tongue has major blood vessels within it. If pierced in the wrong place -- bingo! You bleed badly. Excessive swelling of your tongue can even block your breathing passages.

The tongue is a breeding ground for bacteria. Piercing the tongue causes an open wound. Bathing it in antiseptic mouthwash isn't enough to kill bacteria. Without the ability to keep bacteria out, infection can develop, and lead to throbbing pain and a trip to the doctor or dentist.

Even if you get through the piercing without too much pain, swelling, or bleeding, you still run the risk of other complications. The jewelry might chip your teeth. It can damage your teeth from the inside, too, and that trauma may require an expensive root canal or crown. Over time, the jewelry can irritate your gums. Or, your fancy jewelry can go right "down the tubes" -- you might swallow or even choke on it, or have it lodge in your lungs.

Tongue Piercing Can Cause:

  • Pain
  • Swollen tongue
  • Infection
  • Severe bleeding
  • Blood poisoning
  • Increased saliva flow
  • Gum injury
  • Internal resorption (the tooth dissolves from the inside out)
  • Chipping of teeth
  • Tooth damage requiring crowns, root canals, or other restoration
  • Delayed healing
  • Allergic reactions to metals
  • Choking
  • Difficulty eating
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Life threatening diseases (for example, AIDS and hepatitis) caused from infected needles

Mouth jewelry attracts attention, sometimes the type you aren't looking for -- like dental and medical attention. Be cool. Think smart. Don't put your jewelry where your mouth is.

By Brian J. Gray, DDS, MAGD, FICO

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Rockville Centre, NY 11570
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