Student smiling at work
Badge field

Tongue Piercing Not That Risky, But Things Can Go Wrong

Published date field Last Updated:

It is hard to believe that certain things ever became popular.

Pet rocks, for example.

Shag carpeting.

Sticking a needle through your tongue.

But oral piercing, if not now mainstream, has at least become more common in recent years. According to one survey, 16% of the females and 4% of the males at a New York university had pierced tongues.

The practice doesn't appear to be any more risky than getting an ear pierced. However, if you are going for a hole in your tongue, you might want to be aware of what can go wrong.

The most common problems from oral piercing include excessive bleeding, infection and injuries to the mouth and teeth. Others include swelling, scarring, nerve damage and periodontal disease.

There have been several cases of people cracking or chipping teeth with their piercings. One study found that nearly half of people who wore long barbells (about 1.6 centimeters or longer) in their piercings and kept them in for at least four years had some chipping of their back teeth.

According to a report by the Times of India dermatologist Dr. Swati Srivastava expresses her concern stating that she "would not suggest tongue piercing, as it could increase your chances of getting infected in some or the other way." In fact, a case study featured in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery highlights a complication of oral piercing wherein the dorsal surface of tongue healed over the piercing embedding the barbell, without the patient's knowledge.

Recent studies have demonstrated that the gums inside the front of the mouth are more likely to recede if the tongue is pierced. This is caused by repeatedly pushing the piercing against the front teeth. When gums recede, the bone underneath is reabsorbed by the body. This can loosen the teeth and ultimately cause them to fall out.

Dentists also suggest that a piercing could fracture some types of restorations, such as crowns made of porcelain or porcelain and metal. Some recommend acrylic balls or barbells, rather than metal ones.

Piercings also can interfere with eating and speech. Jessica says she had to "learn to talk all over again, especially Ss and Ts." Now, she says, "Mostly no one can tell I have my tongue pierced. I consider the barbell like any other piece of jewelry, like earrings or a bracelet. "

And what does her dentist think?

"I have had two dentists since I've had [oral piercings] and they are not thrilled about it," she says. "My last dentist said, 'I guess you do not need me to tell you that I do not like the idea.'"

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.