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Piercing Risks Oral Health

Piercing the tongue with studs and barbells has become a popular fashion statement. But this type of oral jewelry can cause serious medical and dental consequences. Most dentists discourage oral piercing because of the following risks.

Chipped Teeth: People frequently chip their teeth on tongue piercings while talking, eating, sleeping, and chewing on the jewelry. The fracture can occur on the enamel of your tooth or may go deeper, which may require a root canal or extraction.

Swelling and Choking: Swelling of the tongue is a common side effect. And in extreme cases, a severely swollen tongue can actually close off the airway and prevent breathing. You also can choke on jewelry that comes loose in your mouth.

Infection: See your dentist at the first sign of trouble. Since the mouth and tongue have high levels of bacteria, oral infections can lead to infections in other parts of the body. Any puncture in your oral cavity could allow bacteria into your bloodstream. From there, bacteria could reach your heart and cause serious problems.

If the needle is not sterile during the actual piercing, there also is a risk of contracting infections such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis.

Allergic Reactions: Some people experience complications from allergic reactions to certain metals. Some metals, such as surgical-grade stainless steel, pose a lower risk.

If you decide to pierce your tongue, take care of it. Always remove the jewelry when you eat, sleep, or participate in strenuous activity. Clean the piercing with an antiseptic mouthwash after every meal and brush the jewelry the same as your teeth to remove plaque.

“So You Want to Pierce Your Tongue?” Know Your Teeth, Academy of General Dentistry. February 2007. http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=S&iid=333&aid=1341 Accessed 2013.

“Oral Piercing.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/o/oral-piercings Accessed 2013.

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