Tongue piercing

By Dr Rosalind Ho BDS (S’pore) MFGDP (UK)

Tongue piercing. photo by Dr Rosalind Ho

In my dental practice, I sometimes come across patients with their tongues pierced. It was quite fascinating and interesting as there are many colorful accessories attached to the silver barbell that has pierced the center of the tongue.

The profile for these patients are mostly youths and young adults. It is not gender-specific. To them, it could be a fashion statement, an emphasis on their individuality or a desired pleasurable effect. It also could be a way to break boredom as they amuse themselves by changing accessories.

As this is an individual choice, I would respect it. However, from a dentist’s point of view, we would inform them about the side effects in the process of having their tongues pierced and retaining them in the mouth for an indefinite period.

Patients must understand that a high skill of this craft is required of the provider. He must have a good knowledge of the tongue and the surrounding vital structures such as the blood vessels and the nerves.

They are the lingual nerve and the lingual artery. Any unfortunate incident may result in lots of bleeding as the tongue is a very vascular organ. Patients must make an informed consent.

They must also be aware that these are foreign bodies that require cleaning as plaque and tartar build-up around these attachments. Fungal infection due to the prevalence of Candida albicans is the cause. Dentists should clean these elements during the teeth and gum prophylaxis.

There is also the possibility of damage to the teeth as they may knock them and cause teeth to chip due to the mobility of the tongue. Dentures are also at risk. Chewing carefully helps.

For some people, they may feel that their speech is impeded but this could be temporary.

There have also been reports of brain abscesses linked to tongue piercing so patients should find out more before embarking on this interest. Good oral hygiene is paramount to minimize problems as the mouth is a hub of bacteria.

For those who are still fascinated and thrilled by this art, find out more before signing up for this procedure.

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