Tongue Rings and Oral Health
Tongue rings are a popular accessory for teens and adults. However, they do not come without risks. As an oral health professional, I want to make you aware of a few potential problems that can arise from this fashion trend. After reading this blog, you can decide if the risk is worth the reward.
Problem 1: Tongue rings frequently cause a receding gum line.
See Image 1. The receding of the gum usually occurs on the inside (backside) of the teeth and near the lower front teeth, but it can also occur in other areas. As the gum recedes, the root of the tooth becomes exposed. These roots are often sensitive and cause discomfort.
In addition, as the gum recedes, the affected teeth have less attachment because the gum is no longer there. That means less “dirt around the fence post,” or less attached tissue to hold your tooth in your mouth. At present, dentists do not have a solution for receding gums on the tongue side of teeth, so they cannot be regenerated.
Problem 2: Tongue rings can cause bacterial infection.
The mouth is full of bacteria, even if you practice good oral hygiene. An infection occurs when the bacteria becomes trapped inside the piercing. Much of the bacteria is introduced by eating and drinking (although there are other sources), and new piercings are more prone to infection than older piercings. Signs of infection include:
- Uncomfortable swelling
- Severe pain
- Persistent warmth
- Excessive bleeding
- Yellow discharge or pus
- Bump around the piercing
If these problems surface, see your doctor as soon as possible. Complications can arise, and in some very rare cases, infection can lead to death.
Problem 3: Tongue rings can interfere with braces.
As you see in Image 2, the bottom part of the tongue ring is caught on a lower bracket. The barbell on the upper part of the tongue ring has been removed. This required a trip to the ER, then to the orthodontist to have the tongue released from the braces.
Other problems associated with tongue piercings include:
- Chipped teeth
- Nerve damage
- Excessive drooling
- Damage to fillings
Listed above are a few of the complications that can arise from a tongue ring. While the fashion and popularity of a tongue ring might be calling your name, be sure to weigh the pros and cons prior to booking your appointment with a piercing artist.