Ask Gainesville Dental Associates: Teen Tongue Piercing

Teen Tongue Piercing

My 16 year old son wants to pierce his tongue. He’s asked before and I’ve always said no. But would it really be that terrible? Help me, Gainesville Dental Associates. Should I let him pierce his tongue?
Signed, Worried for My Son’s Teeth

Dear Worried,

There’s good reason to be. The best answer I can give you is this, No. It is not wise to allow your teenager to pierce his tongue — nor is it wise for anyone to pierce their tongue really. Unlike earlobes or a nose, the tongue is full of nerves and blood vessels, and what’s more: bacteria. To pierce a hole in the muscular tissue of a growing tongue is a blatant request for bacteria to fester, inviting potential harm to your child’s tongue itself but also to his teeth and gums.

Imagine for a second you agreed to the tongue piercing: Are you familiar with the process? Piercers aren’t medical professionals, so they can’t administer anesthetic. Without any pain relief or preparation, this most important of your child’s muscle will be clamp and impaled with a very sharp needle. OUCH. Honestly, I shudder just thinking about it. A barbell-style stud is placed in the mouth and home to heal you go.

Except it’s not often that simple. When you purposefully introduce a wound into the mouth, you increase the risk for transmission of disease and infection. Hepatitis, herpes, tetanus, endocarditis, brain abscesses, and strep: These have all been linked to tongue piercings and/or the presence of a foreign object in the mouth. Researchers have also found evidence to prove a correlation between tongue piercings and a neurological disorder, trigeminal neuralgia. In some cases, pierced patients experience
severe head pain caused by an irritation or disruption of the nerves in the jaw and head.

Beyond the broader health-related implications, the dangers of teen tongue piercing are most severe inside his mouth. Barbells and other studs can damage tooth enamel and fracture teeth (CRUNCH. Metal doesn’t taste good.), and may even lead to periodontal infection. Studs often get caught on teeth, whether accidentally in general daily life or as a result of sports injury, and the risk of a torn tongue — and with it an inability to eat or speak — is just too high.

The American Dental Association recommends against oral piercings, and so too does Gainesville Dental Associates. For further information and a little backup when it’s time to say no to the hole in his tongue, give us a call at (703)-570-6647.