Tongue piercing... Why would you do that to yourself?

Posted by Dr. Edward Magida | Filed under

Oral jewelry. Those seemingly innocuous little barbells that have become the rage amongst teens and young adults. It is considered cool and trendy to have your tongue pierced, but every time I see someone with this extra "thing," it makes me cringe.

As a dentist I have to object to this craze for several reasons. First, I can honestly say that those little balls crack teeth. If one of your tongue adornments inadvertently gets between your teeth at the wrong time, crunch. Bits and pieces of teeth can easily be sheared off. Some real unlucky soul could even split a tooth and end up losing it.

Even if none of the teeth break, constant hitting of the teeth against this foreign object can lead to the traumatizing of the nerve and the possible need for the nerve to be removed, i.e. root canal treatment. Once the root canal procedure is done, the tooth will most likely also need a crown to keep it from fracturing.

From an anatomic standpoint, the tongue is very vascular. Meaning it has the potential to bleed a lot. There are blood vessels and nerves not far from where the person gets pierced and the possibility of hitting one of these in the process is something to be concerned about. Swelling, painful irritation, bleeding and infection are all possible side effects. Not to mention being stopped in airports!

If someone with a compromised immune system was to undertake getting one of the little beauties placed, it could have major consequences. Even if it is done by a supposedly "trained" (although I don't know where) person, these problems can arise. What if it is done by untrained people or those without even a shred of regard for sterile equipment or technique? Other potential problems include allergic reactions to the metal, choking on a loose piece, and diseases such as tetanus and hepatitis.

Another observation of mine: It seems that many people who wear these accessories tend to shy away from speaking in a way that allows other people to see what's in there. They seem to be able to talk without really opening their mouths. Are they embarrassed? Or is it possible that with these metallic gizmos they have finally mastered the art of mental telepathy?

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