Top 4 Reasons to Have

Your Tongue Pierced:


1. It’s Cool.
2. Parents hate it.
3. Everybody’s doing it.
4. Having a Teenage Brain

Top 7 Reasons Not To:


1. Chipped or Broken Front Teeth

The majority of patients we see with tongue barbells wind up with chips, cracks or fractures in their front teeth. These have to be repaired with fillings or crowns. And re-done repeatedly when those wear out – over and over for the rest of your life.


2. Gum Surgery


We’ve had to refer patients to periodontists for surgical correction of damage caused by rubbing tongue barbells.




3. It can go down the wrong way.


The barbell can come un-screwed and wind up in a lung. (If you’re lucky it can be removed by passing a bronchoscope down your throat, avoiding chest surgery.)  Here’s a case.

Going down the other way isn’t necessarily great, either. The ball end should pass through harmlessly if swallowed. However the long part would carry the risk of lodging or causing internal tears in the intestine.


4. Infection and, just possibly,  death

The mouth is moist and full of bacteria, and the tongue has major blood vessels ideal for spreading infection to the brain and elsewhere. This can disfigure or kill you.

TongueInfThe case at left was a local girl who almost died from a brain abscess following a tongue piercing. She had part of her skull removed to relieve pressure caused by the infection. She can still feel the soft spot where the skull is missing.

This is rare, but it is real.


5. Losing blood – possibly lots of it.

The tonguecontains large blood vessels, and you’re in trouble if one of them is perforated. You could end up having to have the vessel closed surgically in hospital.

There is also the possibility of hitting a nerve, and damaging that.  Imagine life with a tongue that doesn’t work properly.


6. Lingering Pain.


Tongue piercing has been associated with cases of neuralgia  – severe, long-lasting nerve pain.  News Article Here


HepV27. Hepatitis or HIV

Unsterile instruments are a great way to spread these and other infections. If you must do this, be sure to go to a reputable clinic, and be very sure that they do things properly: autoclave sterilization and gloves.


Don’t just take our word for it…


Want some more information about this? Check out these pages from:

Canadian Dental Association 
Texas Department of Health 
American Dental Association
UCSD School of Medicine 
Canadian Dental Association Journal
(These are PDF files. If you don’t already have an Acrobat Reader, we recommend the free reader  here.)
Better still, go look for yourself. You can do a proper Google search for Tongue piercing dangers  right here.

What about Lip Piercing?The lips aren’t as vascular as the tongue, so there’s probably less chance of major bleeding.  But jewelry here is more likely to rub the gum tissue away from your tooth and necessitate gum surgery to avoid losing the tooth.

Gum surgery beats brain surgery, but do you really want either?








Is it Worth It?

You decide the price of fashion. The best advice we can give you: keep it outside the mouth.

Do we recommend safe practices and a qualified operator?  Of course. (We also recommend light cigarettes and cutting down for those who smoke, and helmets and mouthguards for those who choose extreme sports. No sense making things more risky than they already are. )

Do we recommend oral piercing?  Obviously not. The risks are a bit high for a medically unnecessary procedure.

Are there any safe alternatives?
Yes. You CAN decorate your mouth without damaging anything, and it costs less than piercing.  Check out bonded tooth jewellery


Speaking of Piercing Shops

We get email from body piercing shops from time to time. Sometimes it’s polite; often it’s coarse or abusive.  Invariably, they claim that oral piercing is perfectly safe when they do it, because they have proper training, and use proper sterilization, use proper jewelry, etc.

As we’ve already said, there’s some truth to this. We approve of using a well-qualified piercing technician who will do it right. If you are going to do it, a well-qualitifed operator who takes proper precautions is essential and will minimize the risks – but it won’t eliminate them.

But although piercing technicians often aspire to provide medical attention to clients having complications, the reality is that patients having serious problems tend to go to a physician or dentist – or may not even realize there is a problem until the dentist find it. None of the complications that we’ve seen requiring surgical correction were seen by the piercing shop, or could have been treated by them.

Because they aren’t health professionals, and don’t treat (or always see) the results when things go wrong, piercing artists tend to underestimate the incidence of complications. They also have a financial stake in the piercing business – it’s their livelihood, after all.  So pick a good one – but take them with a  grain of salt.

We are not out to demean piercing enthusasts – any more than we dislike or disrespect smokers, cliff parachutists, or young people in general.  The purpose of this page is simply to provide information, to assist people making informed decisions – and to encourage sensible precautions for those who choose to take the risks.

Finally,  we have to give special recognition to some pro-piercing websites that that actually acknowledge the risks of oral piercing:

This article originally appeared at