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What are the health risks of tongue piercings?

The main dangers involved with piercing are the risk of infection, metal allergy
and bleeding. In fact, The National Institutes of Health has identified piercing
as possible route for the transmission of hepatitis. In the case of oral
piercing, the bacteria rich mouth can case an infection in the piercing site.
Untreated, the infection could cause swelling to the throat, and prevent a
person from breathing. Oral piercing can also cause damage to the teeth,
interfere with speaking or swallowing, cause an allergic reaction, or breathing
complications if the jewelry is swallowed.
Arthur W. Perry, MD
Plastic Surgery
The gums of people with tongue piercings are exposed to high amounts of all sorts of bacteria, and that causes the gums in the front teeth to recede, leading to something called periodontal disease. As if that's not enough of a problem, half of people with piercings wind up with chipped teeth, mostly in the back of the mouth. Dentistry to salvage your teeth can dwarf the cost of the initial piercing, even if you have a diamond stud.

Whether you care about the appearance of your teeth or not, piercings will eventually make your gums bleed and become sore -- that's called gingivitis. And when the roots of the teeth are exposed, they become sensitive to cold and heat and eventually lead to tooth loss.

But that's not the only problem associated with tongue piercings. It turns out that bacteria love the channel that traverses your tongue. And these germs set up little communities called biofilms on the surface of the studs. The bugs create little fortresses that make the bacteria resistant to mouthwash and even antibiotics. Studs made of stainless steel make the best homes for these colonies of bacteria and ones made of the plastic called polypropylene make the worst. Bacteria in your mouth cause increased inflammation in your body. Many doctors think that this type of inflammation can lead to all sorts of problems, including heart disease.
You may be thinking about, or may already have, piercings or mouth jewelry. While many people think this trend looks cool, it has many harmful side effects. Here are some common risks of oral piercing that you may not know about:
  • Millions of bacteria live in your mouth, so oral piercings may become infected easily.
  • Your tongue -- the most popular piercing site in the mouth -- could swell large enough to block your airway.
  • Piercing can cause uncontrollable bleeding and nerve damage.
  • You can choke on studs, barbells or hoops that come loose in your mouth.
  • Teeth can chip or crack from contact with the jewelry.
  • Bacteria that breeds around your piercing can cause bad breath.
Since your oral health is important for overall health, the effects of an oral piercing may have a greater impact than you think. You are not only risking your oral health, but also the well-being of your entire body.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.