Thinking of getting your tongue pierced?

To pierce or not to pierce—Thinking about getting your tongue pierced?

Have you thought about chipped teeth, drooling, gum damage, nerve damage, taste loss, tooth loss or infection? The problems that can arise from such a piercing might surprise you, reports the Academy of General Dentistry, an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing education.

Fractured teeth are a common problem for tongue piercing according to a recent study in General Dentistry, the peer-reviewed journal of the Academy. People chip teeth on tongue piercings while eating, sleeping, talking and chewing on the jewelry. The fracture can be confined to tooth enamel of your tooth and require a filling, or it may go deep into the tooth; in which case, causing a need for a root canal or extraction.

“Every time you swallow, the barbell hits the teeth, causing constant irritation” says Manuel A. Cordero DDS, FAGD, spokesperson for the Academy. “It’s enough to cause ulcers, which in turn can become pre-cancerous lesions.”
Infections are also common, and they cause more than pain. A tongue can swell after being punctured, but in some cases the tongue becomes infected and swells so much that it may cut off breathing.

Dentists are learning that oral infections can be linked to other infections. “The tongue is covered with bacteria,” Dr. Cordero said. “The moment the tongue is punctured, bacteria is introduced into the blood. When that happens, bacteria reaches the heart and causes a variety of serious problems.”

If you decide to pierce your tongue, take care of it. Once the tongue has been pierced, it takes three to four weeks to heal. Barring complications, the jewelry can be removed for short periods of time without the hole closing. Always remove the jewelry every time you eat or sleep.

To avoid serious infections such as HIV or Hepatitis, make sure that everything is sterilized in an autoclave, which uses extreme heat to sterilize surgical instruments. Ask the piercer questions about after care, cleanliness, equipment and other concerns.

Clean the piercing with an antiseptic mouthwash after every meal and brush the jewelry the same as teeth to remove plaque.