The ADASA has warned anyone contemplating tongue piercing to be aware of the irreversible damage it may cause. Apart from the normal immediate side effects of tongue piercing, including bleeding, swelling, possible infection, breathing difficulty and nerve damage, the practice can cause significant dental problems later, according to the SA Branch of the Australian Dental Association.
ADASA spokesperson Dr Angelo Papageorgiou said cracked teeth were a common side effect of tongue piercing.
“Continuous rubbing of the metal or plastic stud against the teeth can cause abrasion, chipping or cracks to form,” he said.
“In some cases, teeth can fracture and leave the nerve exposed, leading to severe pain and the need for immediate treatment. The problem may range from crack lines appearing in the tooth surface to chunks of the tooth being broken off.
“Sometimes, the only way to solve the problem is to put an artificial crown over the tooth, which requires multiple visits to dentists and the costs associated with the procedure.”
Dr Papageorgiou said damage to the gums and cheeks were not uncommon either and could result in surgery to the jaw. The piercing can repeatedly rub on delicate gum tissues, causing them to abrade or recede.
“The ADASA understands that tongue piercing is a popular fashion statement,” he said.
“We certainly don’t want to get in the way of fashion or be seen as the fun police, but we would urge people to at least be aware of possible side effects before they get the procedure done.
“Once they have had their tongue pierced, they should also make sure they have regular six monthly visits to their dentist who can monitor the piercing and check for early signs of damage to their teeth and gums.
“The earlier any damage is detected, the easier it is to repair and the fewer long term difficulties a person will have. It’s also important that anyone who experiences pain or discomfort in their teeth or gums after having their tongues pierced contacts their dentist as quickly as possible.
“In some cases, many of these difficulties can be overcome by simply removing the tongue piercing.”
Dr Papageorgiou said that lip piercings could similarly cause potential problems for the teeth and gums.
He said anyone seeking oral piercing should make sure they used an experienced piercer who used strict infection control practices.
Adelaide woman Rebecca Bell wishes she had “listened to my mother” after learning the hard way the potential impact of tongue piercing.
“I had my tongue pierced about six years ago when I was 18 or 19,” she said.
“Earlier this year I developed an abscess in my mouth and was unable to eat or drink without pain.
“My dentist initially couldn’t find anything wrong with my teeth, but we worked out that the tongue ring was rubbing my jaw underneath my tongue.
“When I took the tongue bar out, the pain immediately eased, but I still had to undergo an operation to repair the damage that had been caused by the previous six years.
“I wish I’d listened to my mother who said I was young and silly to get a tongue piercing. The risks just aren’t worth it.”