woman with tongue piercing

Tongue Piercings: Wear With Care

Teenagers will often try to do something unique to set themselves apart from their peers. In recent years, that means tongue piercings.

Piercings in the mouth are typically placed in the tongue, but lip and cheek rings are also possible. The problem is that there can be many adverse affects of a "studded" tongue, but most people aren't aware of them. Here are some of the concerns of tongue piercings.

The Risks

Tongue and oral piercings are placed in an area of the body with an abundance of bacteria, and piercings located in the oral cavity could even cause problems with the teeth and throat. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), tongue and oral piercings can potentially lead to:

  • infection with pain and swelling.
  • cracked and fractured teeth.
  • abnormal wear caused by the jewelry.
  • an increase in saliva and drooling.
  • injury to the gums and fillings.
  • interference with speech and chewing.

Tongue piercings are particularly troublesome because the tongue has numerous blood vessels, and uncontrolled bleeding can occur after placement. Nerve damage can occur with tongue piercing as well, causing numbness. What's more, the simple changing of this oral ornament can increase the risk of infection because it requires placing your fingers in your mouth.

The cleanliness of the piercing parlor is extremely important, and instruments that are not sterile could cause secondary infections such as hepatitis B. In very rare cases, an infection can become systemic and spread to other parts of the body, including the heart.

Dental Implications

Oral piercings can also make your dentist's job harder, requiring the removal of the piercing prior to receiving treatment. X-rays, for example, will show the piercing as a white object that interferes with a visible diagnosis. Therefore, remember to remove your piercings before visiting the dentist.

If you're considering an oral piercing, schedule an appointment with your dentist or dental hygienist. They know your mouth best, and will provide information on the risks, proper care and how to find a licensed and reputable piercing establishment.

Care for Oral Piercings

Unlike ear piercings, mouth jewelry makes frequent physical contact with irritating substances, and therefore requires a strong commitment to care. Contact your physician or dentist if you feel any symptoms of an infection, such as inflammation, swelling or fever. Be sure to:

  • keep the area around the piercing clean.
  • use an antibacterial mouth rinse such as Colgate® Total® Advance Pro Shield™ after every meal.
  • avoid clicking the jewelry against the teeth.
  • check the tightness of the jewelry, with clean hands, on a regular basis.
  • remove piercings when playing sports and wear a mouth guard to protect the teeth.
  • schedule regular dental visits.
  • maintain good home habits by brushing and flossing.

No matter how careful you are, avoiding a tongue piercing altogether is the healthiest course of action. But if you are considering having your tongue pierced, consult with your dentist first. Piercings of the mouth aren't an everyday art form, and can impact several aspects of your health without a mature approach.

About the author: Donna Rounsaville, RDH, BS, has been a dental hygienist in private practice for 31 years. She has used her experience with the prevention of dental problems and the importance of healthy eating to educate children in local schools in her hometown of Flemington, New Jersey. Donna is passionate about infection control and office safety for dental workers, providing yearly training to her office colleagues. Active with the Girl Scouts as a leader and with children's liturgy at her church, Donna uses her communication and leadership skills to motivate young people in her community. She has been writing for Colgate since 2013.

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.

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