Want To Pierce Your Tongue?

By: Dr. Mitchell Chun
Special to the
Oahu Island News

Oral piercing may seem hip and fashionable, but it may also cause pain, swelling, infection, drooling, taste loss, scarring, chipped teeth and tooth loss. Most dentists discourage oral piercing because of these risks.

If you decide to get an oral piercing, make sure that you ask the person performing the piercing about care after the piercing, possible side effects, cleanliness and anything else that may concern you. Does the piercer use a fresh needle for every piercing? Some may reuse needles to keep down the cost of the piercing. Make sure all needles and instruments being used are sterilized.

Also, make sure that they use the right kind of metal, such as surgical-grade stainless steel. Some people have allergic reactions to certain metals, which can lead to further complications.

Fractured teeth can be a common problem for people with oral piercings. People chip teeth on tongue piercings while eating, sleeping, talking or simply chewing on the jewelry.

If at any time you feel you may have an infection, see your dentist at the first sign of a problem. It is not unusual for the tongue to swell after being punctured but in some cases, the tongue becomes infected and swells so much that it can affect your breathing.

Once your tongue has been pierced, it will take three to four weeks to heal. Barring complications, you will be able to remove the jewelry for short periods of time without the hole closing. Some suggest that you remove the jewelry to protect your teeth every time you eat or sleep. Some parlors sell plugs that you can place in the hole, which should allow you to remove the jewelry for as long as necessary.

The piercer will place a larger, starter “barbell” in your tongue to give it enough room to heal when your tongue swells. If you decide to keep the piercing, make sure to get a smaller barbell after the swelling goes down, which will be less likely to get in the way of your teeth and more difficult for you to chew on.

Keep your piercing clean. Use an antiseptic mouthwash after every meal and brush the jewelry the same as you would your teeth. You may also want to remove the piercing before eating, sleeping or strenuous activity.

Dr. Chun is a family dentist with offices in Kailua and Waimanalo. He can be reached at 259-7979. The Academy of General Dentistry provided additional information for this article.