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What You Don't Know About Piercings

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Tongue piercing issues

Tongue and lip piercings aren’t only popular with 1980’s washed up rock stars – they are common amongst younger demographics and specific cultures around the world. Whilst many people enjoy the aesthetic benefits and cultural rituals of mouth piercings, you might think twice about rushing to the jeweler after you find out some of the downsides to this penetrating tradition.


Have you noticed your recent tongue piercing has turned red, swollen and sore? The open wound, the man-handling of the ring, and the large amount of germs in the mouth increases the risk of infections.

Nerve damage

Loss of sensation at the site of a piercing is a potential risk if nerve damage occurs through improper insertion. This could mean movement problems for tongues, affecting swallowing and, in extreme cases, impaired breathing.

Gum wear and tear

Mouth piercings, such as long stem barbells, can contribute to gum disease by aiding gum recession and gum ‘wear and tear’ around the pierced area. The lip and tongue jewelry constantly rub along the gum line, wearing away the tissue over time. Tongue rings have also been linked to periodontitis, a more serious condition that can lead to tooth loss if left untreated.


A US study of 52 adults found that tongue piercings are correlated with an increased occurrence of gum recession after two years, and an increased likelihood of tooth chipping after four years.

Teeth damage

Teeth can become chipped or cracked due to trauma with the mouth jewelry, or consistent contact over time. Take special care of crowns and caps that could be impacted through contact with the piercing.

Daily oral function interference

Sometimes simple acts we take for granted can be impacted by oral piercings. This includes difficulty chewing, word pronunciation, swallowing, excessive saliva production, and taste alterations.

Transmission of diseases

The American National Institute of Health have identified mouth piercings as one possible way to transmit blood borne diseases such as hepatitis B, C, D and G.


A risk of endocarditis, inflammation of the heart or its valves, is present due to the pierced wound creating an opportunity for germs to travel to the heart via the bloodstream.

If you do decide to go ahead and get that tongue or lip ring you’ve been thinking about, remember to protect the area by keeping it clean and always practice good oral care.

For the first three to six weeks you can help the pierced area remain clean and heal faster by rinsing your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash, like Colgate® Plax, for 30 to 60 seconds after every meal. Alternatively you can rinse your mouth frequently with salt water. Avoid tobacco and spicy, sticky or hard foods that might get stuck around the pierced site or attract germs.

Don’t forget to brush twice a day with an antibacterial fluoridated toothpaste like Colgate Total Pro-Gum Health and continue to use a mouthwash to help prevent germs building up around the pierced site. A regular visit to the dentist will help keep your teeth and gums healthy.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.