There has been an upsurge in the amount of teenagers getting tongue piercings. Teenagers often view these piercings as a harmless expression of their growing individuality. Oftentimes, parents allow teens to pierce their tongues because the metal bar is impermanent. In addition, tongue bars are not as visually apparent as a tattoo or eyebrow piercing might be.
Unfortunately, tongue piercings can have a serious (even deadly) impact on health. Pediatric dentists routinely advise adolescents to avoid intraoral or perioral piercings for a number of good reasons.
Why is tongue piercing harmful?
First, there are a growing number of unlicensed piercing parlors throughout the country. Such parlors have been recognized as potential transmission vectors for tetanus, tuberculosis, and most commonly, hepatitis. Second, a great number of painful conditions can result from getting a tongue piercing – even in a licensed parlor. These conditions include:
Damaged nerves (trigeminal neuralgia)
Hypersensitivity reactions (to the metal bar)
Periodontal disease/gum recession
What are the most common tongue piercing problems?
To pierce a tongue, the body piercer must first hold it steady with a clamp. Next, a hollowed, pointed metal needle is driven through the tongue. Finally, the piercer attaches the tongue bar to the bottom end of the needle, and then drags it upwards through the tongue. Two metal screw-on balls are then used to secure the tongue bar.
Most commonly, severe pain and swelling are experienced for several days after the piercing episode. Moreover, the new holes in the tongue are especially infection-prone, because the oral cavity is home to many bacteria colonies. In the medium term, saliva production may increase as the body responds to a completely unnatural entity in the mouth.
Are there long-term problems associated with tongue piercing?
Long-term problems with tongue piercings are very common. The screw-on balls constantly scrape against tooth enamel, making teeth susceptible to decay and gums susceptible to periodontal disease. Soft tissue can also become infected in specific areas, as the tongue bar continues to rub against it.
If the tongue bar is inappropriately long, it can get tangled around the tongue or teeth. In a similar way to an earring getting ripped out of the ear, a tongue bar can be ripped out of the tongue. This is extremely painful, as well as difficult to repair.
In sum, the American Dental Association (ADA) advises against any type of oral piercing, and so does Dr. Dan.
If you are a concerned parent, or would like Dr. Dan to speak with your teen about tongue piercing, please contact our office.
Dr. Daniel de la Torre
is a member of the American Dental Association, The American
Academy Pediatric Dentistry, International Association for Orthodontics
(IAO), the American Association for Functional Orthodontics (AAFO) and
the American Orthodontic Society