A researcher from the University of Alberta has warned that tongue piercings can have a harmful effect on dental health.
According to Liran Levin, constant playing with an oral piercing can contribute to accelerated periodontal recession, which can in turn lead to deterioration of the surrounding bone.
Dr Levin said: “People tend to think it’s an innocent procedure, that it’s like another piece of jewellery that you wear around your neck. But it’s not. I see patients who have cracked teeth or receded gums and end up requiring a lot of dental treatment as a result.”
Piercings in and around the mouth are becoming increasingly popular with young people, leading to a variety of new challenges for dentists, particularly when it comes to patients who are constantly fiddling with their stud or ring. At present, around 20 per cent of young people are believed to have a lip or tongue piercing.
Overall, 51.9 per cent of the young adults with such piercings he had surveyed reported swelling in their mouths, and 45.7 per cent had unexplained bleeding. Worryingly, 14 per cent had cracked teeth, and 26.6 per cent had receding gums. These figures are abnormally high, especially since the average age of the group was 18.
Over half (58.7 per cent) of the participants were unaware of the dangers associated with their piercing. The risks include haemorrhage, nerve damage, infection, and swelling that can obstruct the airways in the most severe cases.
Alarmingly, if you clench your teeth in your sleep, the piercing could break, and even cause a choking hazard.
Dr Levin had some important advice for those considering a tongue piercing. He stressed the need for proper sterilisation techniques, as contaminated equipment could cause serious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis and tetanus. These risks can be minimised by choosing a reputable piercer, and carefully following all of their aftercare instructions.
He also urged people with the piercings to get regular check-ups, to allow their dentist to spot the early signs of health problems and provide preventative treatment.