Oral damage done
I admit I am not as hip as I used to be when I was young. On second thought maybe I never was hip, but back then I rebelled against the establishment by growing my hair long. My concerns with oral piercings are not in what they represent, but because of the problems I have personally seen in my patients. The most common problem involves teeth being fractured by inadvertently biting onto tongue post or on other tongue jewelry. The resultant damage has varied from a small chip in a tooth, to a tooth so fractured that it needed a root canal and a crown. I can not describe my disappointment in seeing a perfectly good tooth that now requires major expensive work.
With oral jewelry we also see habits that develop such as playing playing with the piercing. This results in the gum being worn away by constant rubbing causing recession, and the need for gum graft surgery to save the tooth. Again a complicated expensive procedure that is much more uncomfortable than having a piercing done.
Problems can be created by lip piercings also.
Life threatening risk
Both of those types of situations pale compared to our patient who developed a major infection around her tongue post that spread into her throat and resulted in her airway closing off preventing her from breathing. She spent three days in the ICU on tubes and antibiotics to save her life.
The problem is that an oral piercing is like an open wound that only heals when the post is taken out. The tissue on the bottom of the tongue is very thin, moveable and wet making it very difficult to keep clean. Reported swelling and infection occur immediately after placement of a piercing between 24% and 98% of the time. I really do not understand why more piercings do not result in major infections.
My advice is to remove piercings from your mouth. As an incentive, any of our patients who permanently remove their piercing receive free bleaching for their teeth. This is a negotiable item, so if you put the piercing back in you owe us three hundred dollars. If you want more professional opinions about this you might want to read this article by the Australian Dental Association about tongue and lip piercing.