Tongue Piercing: An Expensive Hobby

Do you have your tongue pierced? Sure, it only cost you $40, and that includes the jewelry. But in the end, it might just be the most expensive hobby you have. It turns out that the gums of people with piercings are exposed to high amounts of all sorts of bacteria, and that causes the gums in the front teeth to recede, leading to something called periodontal disease. As if that’s not enough of a problem, half of people with piercings wind up with chipped teeth, mostly in the back of the mouth. Dentistry to salvage your teeth can dwarf the cost of the initial piercing, even if you have a diamond stud.

Posted on | Arthur Perry, MD, FACS | Comments ()

Do you have your tongue pierced? Sure, it only cost you $40, and that includes the jewelry. But in the end, it might just be the most expensive hobby you have. It turns out that the gums of people with piercings are exposed to high amounts of all sorts of bacteria, and that causes the gums in the front teeth to recede, leading to something called periodontal disease. As if that’s not enough of a problem, half of people with piercings wind up with chipped teeth, mostly in the back of the mouth. Dentistry to salvage your teeth can dwarf the cost of the initial piercing, even if you have a diamond stud.

Whether you care about the appearance of your teeth or not, piercings will eventually make your gums bleed and become sore – that’s called gingivitis. And when the roots of the teeth are exposed, they become sensitive to cold and heat and eventually lead to tooth loss.

But that’s not the only problem associated with tongue piercings. It turns out that bacteria love the channel that traverses your tongue. And these germs set up little communities called biofilms on the surface of the studs. The bugs create little fortresses that make the bacteria resistant to mouthwash and even antibiotics. Studs made of stainless steel make the best homes for these colonies of bacteria and ones made of the plastic called polypropylene make the worst. Bacteria in your mouth cause increased inflammation in your body. Many doctors think that this type of inflammation can lead to all sorts of problems, including heart disease. 

So, the simple act of piercing your tongue, seemingly so cool to 17-year-olds, can lead to all sorts of dental and medical problems.

Think about this: the next time you pucker up and kiss your pierced mate, as you entwine your tongues, you will be visiting the 80 or more different species of bacteria that call that piercing “home."

Blog written by Arthur Perry, MD, FACS
Dr. Perry has over 2 decades of experience as a clinical surgeon and has been named to the “Best Doctors in the NY Area” book...