Body modification surged in the early 1980s with the development of safe and sterile piercing environments. What’s more interesting is the origin of body modification. Would you believe that Western carnies brought their traveling sideshows to American and European audiences who were enthralled with the strange jewelry all over the performers?
What started as a sideshow act can now be seen on people of all shapes, sizes and genders. Tongue piercings may be all the rage, but beware of the risks when you decide to take the plunge:
- Chipped teeth: Your tongue piercing can chip your teeth while talking, eating, sleeping or chewing. A piercing can fracture your tooth enamel, or go deeper, requiring a root canal or extraction.
- Tongue swelling: This is a common side effect of tongue piercing. In extreme cases, a severely swollen tongue can inhibit breathing. It’s also possible to choke on jewelry that comes loose in your mouth.
- Infection: You have large amounts of bacteria in your mouth. An oral infection can lead to infections throughout your body if bacteria sneak into your bloodstream. From there, bacteria can reach your heart and could potentially cause some serious problems, according to the Academy of General Dentistry.
- HIV and hepatitis: If the needle used for the piercing isn’t sterile, there’s also a risk of contracting the HIV virus or hepatitis. Always make sure the piercing instrument is brand new.
- Allergic Reactions: Some people experience complications from allergic reactions to certain metals. Some metals, such as surgical-grade stainless steel, pose a lower risk.
If you do decide to pierce your tongue, the best advice we can give you is to take care of it. Always remove the jewelry when you eat, sleep, or participate in strenuous activity. Clean the piercing with an antiseptic mouthwash after every meal and brush the jewelry the same as your teeth to remove plaque.
The American Dental Association offers more tips on how to care for oral piercings.