Oral piercing and tongue jewelry place athletes at risk for serious medical and dental consequences.
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To Pierce or not to Pierce
Have you thought about chipped teeth, drooling, gum damage, nerve damage, taste loss, tooth loss or infection? The problems that can arise from an oral piercing might surprise you.
Fractured teeth are a common problem for people with tongue piercings. People chip teeth on tongue piercings while eating, sleeping, talking and chewing on the jewelry. The fracture can be confined to the enamel of your tooth and require a filling, or it may go deep into the tooth; in which case, a root canal or tooth extraction may be necessary.
"Every time you swallow, the barbell hits the teeth, causing constant irritation that can result in mouth ulcers," says Academy of General Dentistry spokesperson Manuel A. Cordero DDS, FAGD.
Infections are also common. Dentists are learning that oral infections can be linked to other infections. "The tongue is covered with bacteria," Dr. Cordero said. "The moment the tongue is punctured, bacteria are introduced into the blood. When that happens, bacteria can travel to the heart and cause a variety of serious problems."
If you decide to pierce your tongue, take care of it. Once the tongue has been pierced, it takes four to six weeks to heal. Barring complications, the jewelry can be removed for short periods of time without the hole closing. Always remove the jewelry every time you eat or sleep.
To avoid serious infections such as HIV or hepatitis, make sure the piercer sterilizes everything in an autoclave, which uses extreme heat to sanitize surgical instruments. Ask the piercer questions about after-care, cleanliness, equipment and other concerns.
Clean your piercing with an antiseptic mouthwash after every meal and brush the jewelry the same as your teeth to remove plaque.
Updated: February 2007
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