Tongue piercings are more and more commonly used by teenagers as a form of individual expression. Often, parents allow tongue piercings, favoring them and their impermanent nature over more visible body alterations like eyebrow piercings and tattoos.
But while tongue piercings may seem harmless, what these teenagers and parents may not realize is that they can have serious, or even deadly, consequences on a person’s health. Besides that, many complications can arise during and after the piercing process. For these reasons, dentists recommend avoiding intraoral and perioral piercings altogether.
How do tongue piercings work?
The first step in getting a tongue piercing requires the body piercer to hold the tongue steady with a clamp. Next, a pointed and hallowed metal needle is driven through the tongue. A tongue bar is attached to the bottom of the needle and then pulled up through the tongue. Two metal screw-on balls are attached to either end of the bar to secure it in place.
The dangers of tongue piercings
With a growing number of unlicensed piercing parlors around the country, customers have the potential to be exposed to diseases such as tuberculosis, tetanus, and hepatitis. Even piercings from a licensed parlor are not always successful and side-effect-free.
Common conditions caused by tongue piercings include:
Damaged nerves (trigeminal neuralgia)
Hypersensitivity reactions to the metal bar
Periodontal disease/gum recession
People with tongue piercings should expect increased saliva production as the body responds to the new, unnatural entity in the mouth.
Common side effects of tongue piercings
The most common side effects of a tongue piercing are severe pain and swelling. These last for at least several days after the piercing is done. Infection is another common side effect as the new holes in the tongue are constantly exposed to the many bacteria colonies that regularly populate the oral cavity.
Long-term side effects are very common, too. In many cases, the screw-on balls on the ends of the tongue bar scrape against the teeth, wearing away the tooth enamel and making the teeth and gums more susceptible to decay and periodontal disease. Contact with the balls and tongue bar can also lead to infection in the soft tissue.
One extremely painful side effect of tongue piercings involves the tongue bar getting caught and tangled around the tongue or teeth. When this happens, the bar can get ripped out of the tongue, causing extreme pain and damage to the oral cavity which can be difficult to repair.
Any type of oral piercing comes with many side effects, which is why the American Dental Association (ADA) advises against them.
If your teenager is thinking about getting or has already gotten a tongue piercing and you would like their pediatric dentist to speak to them, please contact Brooklyn Dentist.