Effects of Tongue Piercing

I have a teenage son who has had his tongue pierced several months ago. Being a past dental assistant I was very concerned about oral hygiene, tongue nerve endings, taste buds and possible choking or breaking other teeth when he had this procedure done. Can you give me any concrete evidence that tongue piercing has been a problem or is detrimental in some way? I don't know if any info will change his mind, but perhaps it will open his eyes to what could possibly happen.


Body piercing, including tongue piercing, is popular. There are concrete, scientific studies which have been conducted to ascertain if tongue piercing causes dental complications.

While all people are different and will respond differently to the "wounding" caused by tongue piercing, there are things to consider before piercing the tongue. First and foremost: Are the instruments used to pierce the tongue, lips, or cheek clean and sterile? Second, the tongue is a very vascular, heavily innervated organ; therefore, the piercing can cause quite a bit of bleeding and pain.

After the tongue is pierced, other problems can occur. Chipping of teeth has been caused by the barbel-shaped jewelry that is often inserted in the tongue. In addition, taste and speech can be adversely affected. A high percentage of pierced tongues are prone to infection. If the tongue swells as a direct result of the piercing or secondarily due to an infection, it can become difficult to swallow or even breathe!

For additional information on this topic, please see the July 1997 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, page 1017, and the British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Vol. 32, 1994, pages 37-38. The Journal of the California Dental Association ran a cover story on oral piercing earlier this year, although I cannot recall the exact issue date. I hope these studies will help clarify some of these issues for you and your son.

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