Whenever there’s a break in the skin, infection is a possibility. The possibility of infection is elevated when a skin break occurs in the mouth because it is a bacteria-rich environment. Tongue piercing brings with it a bigger risk of infection at the site of the piercing.
Handling the jewelry further increases the risk as outside bacteria are added to the bacteria present in the mouth.
Swelling of the tongue is common after a piercing. Your tongue is in constant motion, which slows and complicates the healing process. There have been incidences so severe that tongue swelling obstructs the airway.
The tongue has many blood vessels and nerves. Any damage done to the blood vessels of the tongue carries the risk of serious blood loss. If a nerve is damaged during piercing, it may result in permanent damage with the potential to permanently affect speech or ingestion.
Bloodborne Disease Transmission Oral piercings have been identified by the National Institutes of Health as a possible factor in transmission of Hepatitis B, C, D and G.
Endocarditis, Recent studies show heart health is negatively affected by blood-borne oral bacteria. Tongue piercings increase the risk of endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart valves or tissues. The site of the piercing provides an opportunity for oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream and possibly travel to the heart. This presents a risk for individuals with cardiac abnormalities on which the bacteria can bind and colonize.
Jewelry-Related Complications Constant interaction with the tongue stud (or barbell) can damage the soft tissue of gums and tooth enamel. The soft tissue can be bruised or torn — but if the jewelry is in constant contact with the gums, it may cause the gums to recede. Chips and cracks to teeth are common as the metal continually strikes teeth.
Oral jewelry can also impede normal oral function by stimulating excess saliva. Jewelry may interfere with the normal formation of words and can cause problems with chewing and swallowing food. Jewelry that has come loose during the chewing process is a choking hazard—and if ingested, it can result in injury to the digestive tract.
Tongue piercings may be the latest fad, but consider the risks to oral and overall health before taking the plunge. When undertaking something that can affect your health, always get complete information about the risks and as much information as you can about how to properly care for your piercing and oral jewelry.
Your dentist or dental hygienist can provide you with sound advice if you’re considering tongue piercing. They may have treated patients with oral piercings and can give you first-hand information, as well as the latest medical information. Being informed is your best defense in protecting your health—and there is no better resource in protecting your oral health than your dentist.
The cultural trend toward oral cheek—is meant to make the wearer of oral jewelry look cool, daring and maybe even fearless. After all, the wearer was subjected to physical pain to get their cutting-edge look. What many don’t count on is the considerable risk they take during and after the piercing takes place.