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Don’t put your bling where your mouth is!

Oral piercing is one of the most popular forms of body art and self-expression.  It may look cool, but there are side-effects to consider before opening your mouth.

According to the American Dental Association, if you pierce your tongue, lips, cheeks or uvula (the tiny tissue that hangs at the back of the throat) it can interfere with speech, chewing or swallowing.  Other side effects include:

  • Infection, pain and swelling – Your mouth is a moist environment, home to huge amounts of breeding bacteria, and an ideal place for infection. It’s also possible for a piercing to cause your tongue to swell, potentially blocking your airway.

  • Damage to gums, teeth and fillings – A common habit of biting or playing with the piercing can injure your gums and lead to cracked, scratched or sensitive teeth. Piercings can also damage fillings.

  • Tooth Movement – the constant pressure of the piercing against the back of your teeth can make them loosen and move, creating gaps.

  • Hypersensitivity to metals and allergic reactions at the pierced site.

  • Excessive drooling – Your tongue piercing can increase saliva production.

  • Nerve damage – nerve damage from the piercing procedure is usually temporary, but can sometimes be permanent. The injured nerve may affect your sense of taste.

If you already have a pierced tongue, the Academy of General Dentistry advises you to take good care of your mouth. Always remove the jewelry every time you eat or sleep to avoid damaging your teeth and the tissues in your mouth. Some piercing parlors sell plugs that can be placed in the hole when you remove the jewelry to protect the piercing. You should clean the piercing with antiseptic mouthwash after every meal and brush the jewelry to remove plaque.

Visit your dentist regularly for a routine oral cancer screening, since your tongue may repeatedly rub against the same area, you might develop ulcers in your mouth which, when left untreated, can turn into pre-cancerous lesions.