Tongue Piercing Has Risks!
Thursday September 4, 2008 

Dear Dr. Mady: I am thinking about getting my tongue pierced very soon. All my friends at school have had it done, but my parents are really upset with me for even considering it. Can it really hurt me in any way if I do it? —Jason in Leamington


Dear Jason: Oral piercing of all types is becoming a very popular trend in our community, especially for those who wish to make a different type of fashion statement. What they are not taking into consideration is the effect that this deliberate wounding will have on their oral health.

I realize that you may be very determined to go ahead with having your tongue pierced, but before you proceed you must be informed about the potential hazards that this new look could pose on your health. Anytime a foreign body or jewelry is inserted through oral tissues, infection is a real possibility. Also this will not only change your looks but your lifestyle with respect to hygiene will instantly become much more complicated than before in order to avoid any type of infection or complication. Do you even know the sterility of the instruments used for the procedure and possible issues related to that?

Tongue piercing is probably the most popular of all oral piercing. Other types involve the lips and cheeks. Possible health related hazards from this procedure include localized tongue infections, airway obstruction, changes in speech, serious bleeding, allergic reaction and transmission of diseases such as HIV or Hepatitis B. If your tongue swells as a direct result of piercing or secondarily from infection it can become difficult to swallow or maybe even to breathe. I don’t have to tell you what the end result will be.

Dental risks of tongue piercing include chipping, cracking and fracture of teeth, damage to tooth nerves and recession of the gums around the teeth in contact with the jewelry. Subsequently this recession can lead to tooth sensitivity and promote gum disease thus affecting the periodontal or support system of your teeth. It may also cause root decay because the exposed roots are softer than the crowns of the teeth and tooth loss may eventually result. Other oral tissues can also become damaged from oral piercing. Some cases of tissue trauma have been so severe that the individuals involved have had to remove their jewelry from their mouth and allow the hole to close and heal to prevent further problems.

If you have an oral piercing you must maintain above average oral hygiene including tongue brushing, irrigating the hole daily with water and rinsing with mouthwash every time you eat, drink, or smoke, especially for the first few weeks. You will additionally have to keep your jewelry clean by using an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner very frequently. It is always better to use jewelry that is good quality yellow or white gold or metal of surgical quality.

If you are contemplating an oral piercing, I do not recommend it and I strongly encourage you to discuss it with your dentist or hygienist. Oral piercing is poorly regulated and if you do not know and understand all of the factors involved, you may really be looking for trouble. Questions for Dr. Mady can be e-mailed to and check out his new blog at (dental education network) where you can comment on articles.


This column is reprinted with the permission of the author and The Windsor Star. "Ask the Dentist" is written by Windsor dentist (and ECDS member), Dr. David Mady Jr.. The column appears the first Thursday of each month in the Windsor Star. Readers with questions can write to "Ask The Dentist", c/o The Windsor Star, 167 Ferry St., Windsor Ontario, N9A 4M5



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