man with tongue piercing

Tongue Piercings: What To Expect

Tongue piercings are an ancient form of body modification and self-expression that still interest people today, most commonly adolescents and young adults. Before you get a tongue piercing, it's important to know what questions to ask the piercer and how to keep the site clean to avoid complications.

What to Know Before You Go

The tongue is a muscle with nerves and veins running through it, so it is critical to find a piercer who is familiar with the anatomy of the tongue. There are many nerves in the tongue that can be damaged if the piercing is not done correctly.

Ask the person performing the procedure how many tongue piercings they have done before. They may touch the tongue and apply pressure to see if the area changes color. The piercer may also check under the tongue to ensure the procedure can be performed safely. Not everyone is a good candidate for a tongue piercing!

Also ask about the sterilization process and what steps are taken to clean the equipment between procedures. All the materials involved should be free of bacteria to avoid spreading infection. For example, needles should be stored and disposed of in a specific sharps container. However, there are other pieces of equipment that are not disposable. Knowing this information can help you be more confident in the reputability of the person performing the procedure.

Tongue Piercings and Dental Concerns

Complications can develop from any type of piercing. When contemplating a tongue piercing, inform yourself of the potential risks.

The American Dental Association (ADA) notes that tongue piercings can harbor the bacteria that contribute to periodontal disease. In fact, 44 percent of individuals with a tongue piercing exhibit gum recession. Chipped teeth are also associated with tongue piercings, as the barbell or ring can hit the back of the front teeth and the premolars when the tongue moves along the surface of the teeth. According to the ADA, 26 percent of individuals with this oral piercing experience tooth damage.

During the initial procedure, a metal stud is used, but some advise switching to nonmetal or acrylic jewelry afterward. Metal appliances may cause greater dental damage and be more likely to lead to infection. Additionally, the jewelry should be removed from the mouth when engaging in contact sports.

Avoiding Infection

All oral piercings are at risk of infection due to the amount of bacteria in the mouth, so it's essential to clean your tongue piercing properly after the procedure. You should see your doctor if you experience lasting redness or soreness, unusual odors, discharge or other signs of infection.

The good news is that the tongue heals relatively quickly. You can expect your piercing to heal within four to six weeks. During the first few days after the procedure, you will likely experience some pain and swelling. The ADA recommends using an alcohol-free mouthwash to clean the site of the piercing. Colgate Peroxyl Mouth Sore Rinse is a soothing rinse to help promote the natural healing of minor mouth irritations. It's also important to choose foods that won't irritate the site. Foods that are acidic, crunchy or sticky can inhibit healing or cause additional complications.

Should you choose to get a tongue piercing, ask your dental provider to carefully evaluate your teeth and gums at each dental cleaning to ensure no issues have resulted from the procedure. Maintain a thorough oral care routine with daily brushing and flossing to keep your mouth healthy and make you confident in your decision!

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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