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Periodontal Inflammation – A Risk With Tongue Piercing

Periodontal Inflammation – A Risk With Tongue Piercing

Periodontal Inflammation – A Risk With Tongue Piercing

Piercing is one of the most prevalent form of body art and self-expression. But body piercing should not be a frivolous, spur-of-the-moment act. Why? It’s a surgical procedure that is frequently carried out in beauty salons or tattoo/piercing parlors that are completely unregulated. Worse yet, body parts are also pierced at concerts and in people’s garages, basements and bathrooms. Currently, there are no certification or training standards for body piercers. Anyone can grab a needle (which may be contaminated with AIDS or Hepatitis B, C, D or G) and puncture someone else’s body. Oral piercing, in particular, poses some serious risks because of the high number of bacteria normally found in the mouth. It’s a procedure that should not be taken lightly and a risk with tongue piercing should be taken care of.

A Risk With Tongue Piercing

The piercing fad may come and go, but for people with pierced tongues, adverse effects could last a lifetime. The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) reported that tongue piercing can result in chipped teeth, infections, nerve and gum damage, drooling, taste loss, and tooth loss. Irritation from the barbell-shaped jewelry could result in periodontal disease or oral cancer. So while it may be fun for a teen to wag a pierced tongue in hopes of disapproval from conventional society, damaged and missing teeth, disease, and life-threatening cancer are far from cool.

The Health Risk

Tongue piercing risks serious infection, lost teeth, nerve injuries, blood poisoning – even death. The effects of tongue piercing includes:


According to the Hepatitis C Foundation, body piercing has contributed significantly to the spread of Hepatitis C (also known as HCV), a disease that public health officials predict will kill more people than AIDS in the next millennium. The National Institutes of Health has identified piercing as a potential source for other blood-borne hepatitis (B, D and G). The deadly AIDS virus can also be transmitted during body piercing, if the piercer uses a contaminated needle.

Toxic Shock

A serious form of blood poisoning, commonly known as toxic shock syndrome, can enter the body through the piercing wound and spread throughout the body. Symptoms of TSS include high fever, muscle aches, vomiting and diarrhea, dizziness, a rapid pulse and a sunburn-like rash. TSS is potentially fatal, so if you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to be evaluated by a healthcare professional immediately.

Lung aspiration of the Jewelry

The barbell placed in a pierced tongue can come off. If the post (the needle-like portion of the jewelry that goes through the tongue) is swallowed, it can obstruct the airway and aspirate into the lung, or perforating the bowel or the intestine, causing death.

Tongue Swelling and Bleeding

In response to the trauma of a piercing, a tongue will swell – sometimes to the size of a large pickle. This poses the risk of airway blockage, which can result in death. The major vessels of the lingual artery and vein are located in the tongue and, if pierced, will bleed profusely. If a piercing wound bleeds excessively (i.e., for more than an hour after the piercing), see your physician immediately.

Non-Life Threatening Problems

Tongue piercing side-effects give rise to many non-life threatening problems also that includes:


The diameter of the to 14-gauge needle usually used to pierce tongues is seven times greater than the needle used in traditional dental anesthesia.

Cracked Teeth 

Frequently, people with pierced tongues accidentally bite down on the stud while chewing, chipping or cracking a tooth.

Speech Interference 

The tongue plays a large role in your speech, and some people complain that they can’t speak clearly after getting their tongues pierced.

Traumatic Neuromas 

Altered sensation can develop, which produce nerve injuries in the tongue.
Some individuals experience allergic reactions to the jewelry, particularly if it is not made of surgical steel, gold or titanium.

Gum Damage 

The jewelry can rub against the gums and cause them to recede, or pull back from the teeth. This can lead to gum disease and eventual tooth loss.

Keloid Formation 

Large growths of scar tissue protrude from the piercing on both the top and the underside of the tongue.

Prolonged or Permanent Drooling 

In some individuals, their bodies naturally respond to the invasiveness of the tongue piercing by increased salivation. This response cannot be consciously controlled.

Damaged Sense of Taste 

The American Dental Association stands firmly against the practice of oral piercing. The National Institute of Health and The National Hepatitis Foundation have also taken a position against tongue piercing. Many dentists recommend that you think twice before undergoing the procedure.

Avoiding the Risks

To make sure your piercing is done safely, ask these questions:

Who Does the Piercings?

Don’t attempt to pierce yourself or allow an untrained friend to do the piercing. Go to a reputable piercing studio where employees are properly trained.

Regulation requirements and licensing standards vary from state to state. Check with your city, county or state health department for information on local licensing and regulations.

Does the Piercer Wear Gloves?

Make sure the piercer washes his or her hands and wears a fresh pair of disposable gloves for each piercing.

Does the piercer use proper equipment? For earlobe piercing, piercers often use an ear-piercing gun to push an earring through the earlobe. For other body piercings, piercers typically push a needle through a body part and then insert a piece of jewelry into the hole. Make sure the piercer uses only fresh, sterile needles.

Does the Piercer Sterilize Non Disposable Equipment?

Make sure the piercer uses a heat-sterilization machine (autoclave) to sterilize all nondisposable equipment after each piercing. Instruments and supplies that can’t be sterilized with an autoclave — including drawer handles, tables and sinks — should be disinfected with a commercial disinfectant or bleach solution after each use.

Does the Piercer Use Hypoallergenic Jewelry?

Look for surgical stainless steel, titanium, niobium, or 14- or 18-karat gold.

Schedule A Consultation

With San Ramon periodontist dentistry could be painless! Learn more about oral piercing by scheduling a consultation with us, please call us at (925) 860-7071.

Dr Kaeley

Dr. Janice Kaeley, a periodontist, is committed to providing the highest level of care with compassion and understanding for every patient. Dr. Kaeley is delighted to provide the most current periodontal procedures to the community of San Ramon. From the moment you meet her, Dr. Kaeley’s passion for dentistry is evident. She takes the time necessary to educate her patients and help each patient find the right path of treatment for them based on all relevant clinical findings.

9301 Fircrest Lane,

San Ramon, CA 94583

(925) 860-7071

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