Woman with a Pierced TongueA Bit on Body Art

In every big city—and down on a lot of farms—”body art” is all the rage. While we begged our parents for discreet earrings, our children are piercing various body parts in surprising places. Lips, tongue, cheeks, even the uvula (the dangling thingie in the back of the throat) are fair game in and around the mouth. Aesthetics aside, how dangerous is piercing, really?

First, the downside

  • Piercing usually happens at a salon or, more often, a tattoo parlor. Though some states regulate such businesses, few piercers are licensed, most self-taught. The tongue, in particular, has veins that mustn’t be disturbed. We hope your piercer knows where they are. Sterilization standards must be in place or the risks of infection during and after the procedure are heightened.
  • It hurts; you’ll bleed.
  • Jewelry in the mouth can be swallowed. Teeth can be cracked. Gum tissue may tear or over grow. Scar tissue may form. Food gets stuck in the pierced site.
  • Excess saliva production causes drooling. Speech is impeded, at least for a while. And the very worst of all, the pierced individual, guaranteed, will “play” with a tongue device—and you’ll have to watch.

Then again…

Most teenagers grow beyond body piercing, and the body likewise heals itself. People who enjoy a good clean mouth usually won’t have infection problems. When it’s gone—and it will be gone one day—there may be slight scarring. But, hey, it’s all in the name of art.

The most hazardous effects of tongue piercing are increased saliva flow (drooling), a chipped tooth (dental bills), or overgrowth of tongue tissue.