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Oral piercings

About oral piercings

Tongue, lip or cheek piercings are a practice that can be damaging for teeth and gums. Many side effects, ranging from discomfort to serious health issues, can be caused during and because of the procedure. Anyone thinking of getting an oral piercing should consider if the benefits outweigh the risks.


Severe infections, such hepatitis B and HIV, can be transmitted during the oral piercing procedure if the instruments used were not properly sterilized.

Other risks include:

Pain and bleeding

The tongue being composed of many important blood vessels, piercing could lead to prolonged bleeding. Moreover, because there are numerous nerve terminations on the tongue and lips, the pierced area can turn out to be very painful.


Piercings frequently result in infections because of the large quantity of bacteria found in the mouth and also because the pierced area is hard to sterilize. Tongue swelling, a consequence of the piercing or an infection, affects swallowing and, in certain cases, breathing.

Dental problems

The presence of jewels in the mouth can chip or break teeth and fillings and cause gums to recede. Continuous trauma sustained by the teeth leads to pulp (nerve) damage that can sometimes be irreversible. Certain types of jewel can interfere with radiography, which in turn can make it harder for the dentist to diagnose some oral afflictions.

Heart problems in at-risk patients

According to a study made on 445 patients of the Mayo Clinic suffering from congenital heart diseases, close to one out of four patients developed endocarditis after getting pierced.

Risk of injury

If the jewelry somehow gets dislodged, it can be swallowed or even inhaled into one of your lungs. Surgery will need to be performed in order to retrieve it.

Other preoccupations

  • Oral piercing can cause excessive production of saliva, which can lead a patient to drool uncontrollably.
  • Speech, eating and drinking can be affected.
  • Permanent numbness of the tongue can develop.
  • The taste of food can be modified.
  • Piercings create space in which food and plaque can accumulate, thus causing bad breath.
  • Allergic reactions can happen if the jewelry is of poor quality.

Oral piercings care

The Canadian Dental Association is opposed to oral piercing and consider the practice as a health hazard. If you decide to have your tongue, lip or cheek pierced despite the disadvantages described above, you must change your hygiene habits and lifestyle to prevent infections and other complications.

For the first two months, brush your tongue and irrigate the hole with an antiseptic every time you eat, chew gum or smoke.

Then, follow these advices:

  • Brush your tongue and irrigate the hole with water every day;
  • Keep your piercings clean (beware of common jewelry cleaning agents that can be toxic);
  • Rinse your mouth every day with antimicrobial or antibacterial mouthwash;
  • Make sure you know how to take out your piercings for dental exams and radiography.