TONGUE rings are becoming increasingly popular in Jamaica. Some women opt to get a vertical piercing through the centre of the tongue (midline), while others choose a horizontal (snakeye), or even a piercing of the frenulum, the web-like area that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth.
But while tongue piercings are used as a means of self-expression, and are even believed by some to enhance stimulation during oral sex, tongue piercings can be very dangerous, says dental surgeon Dr Sharon Robinson.
“The main dangers involved with piercings are the risk of infection, metal allergy and bleeding,” Dr Robinson told All Woman.
“Millions of bacteria live in your mouth, so oral piercings may become infected easily. Your tongue, the most popular piercing site in the mouth, could swell large enough to block your airway.”
She added that a person wearing jewellery in the mouth can choke on studs, barbells or hoops that become loose.
“Teeth can chip or crack from contact with the jewellery, and bacteria that breeds around your piercing can cause bad breath,” she said.
Body piercer and tattoo artist at Clock Tower Plaza in Half-Way-Tree, Candice 'Needlez' Davis, assures clients that her oral piercings are “all very safe”, and done by a skilled professional.
“When I perform an oral piercing I advise clients to rinse it with warm salt water every day at least twice per day, and avoid spicy food, hot food, oral sex, kissing, shellfish, smoking, bubble gum, alcohol, yoghurt, straws and mouthwash/peroxide (unless antiseptic and non-alcoholic) for the two weeks following the piercing,” she said. “You need to brush your teeth and tongue like you normally would, though, so I recommend you purchase a new, soft toothbrush.”
Davis said that sanitation is key when getting a piercing done, to reduce the risk of infections.
“For starters I ensure a clean, hygienic environment is provided. Piercing surfaces on the body are effectively cleaned with the appropriate cleaning agent for the specific area before execution of the piercing. Each needle used on a client is new and in a sealed package which is displayed to the client before use. New gloves are used on each client. All reusable tools, such as piercing clamps and forceps are properly sterilised and autoclaved between clients,” she outlined.
She said aftercare is extremely important for the maintenance of healthy piercings.
“I'd even go as far as to say that the majority of infected or irritated piercings occur as a result of poor aftercare practices. Aftercare is definitely key, coupled with selecting a clean, experienced professional to execute your piercings.”
And warned Dr Robinson, “Your tongue is used for eating, talking, chewing and swallowing. Once you perform these activities with jewellery on your tongue, you're likely to fracture or chip the enamel on your teeth. This kind of damage can eventually send you to the dentist for fillings, crowns, root canals or teeth extraction.”
She added: “If you don't damage your teeth, you may cut or puncture the interior of your mouth. Since your tongue may repeatedly rub against the same area, you may even develop ulcers in your mouth which when left untreated, can turn into precancerous lesions.”
She also advised against piercing another oral surface — the cheeks.
“There are some large blood vessels in this area, and it is possible for a piercer to puncture one. Along with puncturing a salivary gland in your cheek, the ducts that carry saliva to your mouth can also be obstructed. This results in enormous swelling and a trip to the emergency room. There are also muscles in the cheek itself which could be impeded in functioning,” she said.