Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tongue Rings and Oral Piercings--Not So Sexy After All

Last week I wrote about tongue hygiene. This week my assistant Erica suggested I write something about tongue rings. So here it is.

I won't get into the discussion on whether or not tongue rings are fashionable or sexy. I will approach this from a medical/dental perspective.

Three things immediately come to mind when I see tongue rings:
  1. Broken Teeth
  2. Infections
  3. Gum Recession

Broken Teeth

We see this quite frequently. This occurs because the hard metal on the tongue ring constantly pounds on the teeth like a wrecking ball. The end result is very predictable. I recommend that a tongue ring never be worn. However, I know people will do what they please. So, if wearing a tongue ring is for you, at least have one that is made of a softer material that will make it less likely to break teeth.

Teeth broken by a tongue ring


The mouth has an incredible amount and variety of bacteria. Whenever a wound is created either accidentally or on purpose, we risk a potential infection. If the tongue is especially unclean, then an infection is much more likely to occur. I recommend you read last weeks blog--Tongue Hygiene.

There are two main concerns with an oral infection.

First, they can get out of control in a relatively short period of time. If allowed to progress, a person can become septic rather quickly. This is a life-threatening condition!

Secondly, when structures become infected, they enlarge. If too much tissue enlarges within the mouth and neck, then the airway will become obstructed. This is also a life-threatening condition! Many people have succumbed to infections that originated in the mouth.

An infected pierced tongue

Gum Recession

This is commonly seen in patients with oral piercings. Most often you'll see the recession on the tongue side with tongue rings. The picture below isn't a tongue ring. The process nevertheless is still the same. The gums recede wherever the material makes contact.

Gum recession caused by repeated trauma

We all have different needs and priorities. If you value a tongue ring because it makes you feel more fashionable, sexy or something else, I will not tell you what to do. However, please understand what the risks are.

Dr. Cisneros maintains a practice in Freeburg and Columbia, IL. Both are in the Greater St Louis, MO area. For more information on a wide variety of subjects, please visit

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