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Did You Know That Oral Piercing Could Lead To Endocarditis, Hepatitis And Other Serious Infections?

Piercings have come a long way. From getting them done for the sake of culture and tradition to using it as a form of self-expression, bodily piercings are something that will never go out of style. Oral piercing or mouth piercing is actually, a small hole in your tongue, lip, cheek, or uvula which is done to wear jewellery.

Apart from the edgy look they add to your physical appearance, oral piercings can negatively impact your health in various ways. Your mouth contains millions of bacteria, making oral piercings a trigger for swelling and infections [1] . From interfering with speaking and swallowing to causing excessive bleeding from an accidental piercing of a blood vessel or artery, oral piercings are something that have to be given critical attention on.


Studies and medical experts point out that, oral infections do not just cause minor infections but severe ones such as endocarditis, nerve damage etc. Let's take a look at the ways oral infections can be dangerous to your overall health.

1. Infection

When you get yourself pierced, a wound is formed on your body. With the piercing being an oral one, the risk of infections is high because of the vast amount of bacteria in the mouth. Apart from this, the jewellery placed in the pierced area is a foreign object, which adds on to the level of bacteria which cause infections [2] .


As your mouth has a moist environment, it becomes an ideal place for infections and thereby, causes your tongue to swell, potentially blocking your airway. It can also severe pain.

2. Endocarditis

It is a type of infection affecting the endocardium, which is the inner lining of your heart chambers and heart valves. Endocarditis occurs when the germs from your mouth spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart [3] . The wound created by the piercing could lead to the bacteria entering the bloodstream and cause an inflammation of the heart or its valves.

3. Gum disease

One of the other complications of oral piercing is gum disease. It is increasingly found in individuals with tongue piercings. The piercing jewellery when coming into contact with the gum tissue will cause an injury and cause recession of the gum tissue. Consequently, it can lead to loose teeth and tooth loss [4] .

4. Nerve damage

Oral piercing can cause numbness or loss of sensation at the site of the piercing. In the case of tongue piercings, movement restriction can also occur [5] . It also increases the risk of puncturing of blood vessels, thereby causing prolonged bleeding, loss of sensation and swelling of the tongue. With the nerve being damaged, the salivary flow will be increasingly stimulated and causes permanent drooling [3] [6] .

5. Transmission of diseases

Studies point out that, oral piercings possess the risk of causing the transmission of herpes simplex virus and hepatitis B and C. Usage of non-sterile equipment by the piercer can increase the risk of HIV as well [7] .

6. Teeth damage

Cracking or chipping of teeth is common in individuals with oral piercing. According to a study, 47 per cent of individuals with tongue jewellery for 4 years or more had at least one chipped tooth.

Apart from the above-mentioned health risks, the oral piercing can also cause jewellery aspiration, where the individual can choke or swallow a piece of jewellery when it becomes accidentally loose. It can also cause injury to the digestive tract or lungs [8] .

In some individuals, the jewellery may cause a hypersensitivity reaction. Likewise, oral piercings pose a great level of limitation to your daily activities (oral functions) such as making it difficult for chewing and swallowing food and speaking [9] [10] .

Now that you are aware of the ways oral piercing can be a risk, here are some steps to consider - which can help in avoiding the risk of infection [11] [12] .

  • Try to keep your tongue away from your teeth and gums to minimise damage
  • Do not pick, tug or put unclean hands near the piercing
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco-based products
  • Brush after every meal and rinse with a mouthwash
  • Eat soft foods your head slightly elevated during the initial healing process
  • Avoid alcohol, spicy foods, and hard and sticky foods
  • Rinse your mouth frequently with warm salt water
  • Make an appointment with your dentist if you suspect a problem or have a concern

FAQs About Oral Piercing

Q. How long does it take a tongue piercing to heal?

A.The healing time will depend on the person, the care, and the amount of swelling. In general, the healing period takes two to four weeks after getting them done.

Q. What to eat after a tongue piercing?

A.You can eat and drink virtually anything from noodles to soda, however, be warned that spicy foods may make your piercing sore. Avoid hot drinks, pineapple, kiwi, pickles, lemons, or anything sour, peanut butter, caramel, cookies, nuts, chips etc.

Q. Can you drink alcohol after a tongue piercing?

A.While alcohol does disinfect, it can also kill skin cells, which slows the healing process and causes swelling, itching, and infection.

Q. Who can't get their tongue pierced?

A.People who have a very short tongue, people who have a lot of webbing that stretches far up the tongue, people who have a vein in the wrong place and people with certain health conditions such as paralysis, nerve issues etc.

Q. How do oral piercings affect your teeth?

A.The pressure of the piercing against the back of one's teeth can make them loosen and move, creating gaps. It can also cause cracking and chipping of the tooth.

View Article References  
  1. [1]   Vozza, I., Fusco, F., Corridore, D., & Ottolenghi, L. (2015). Awareness of complications and maintenance mode of oral piercing in a group of adolescents and young Italian adults with intraoral piercing. Medicina oral, patologia oral y cirugia bucal, 20(4), e413.
  2. [2]   Manning, M. R. (2017). Oral and Peri-oral Piercings and Dental Health. Dental Assistant, 86(4), 7.
  3. [3]   Nandini, D. B., Banerjee, S., Sanjeeta, N., Devi, P. A., & Reddy, P. B. (2018). Oral piercing and its implications on the health of oral tissues: Aesthetics or mutilation?. International Journal of Oral Health Dentistry, 4(1), 12-16.
  4. [4]   Stott, B. (2017). AAP offers guidelines to reduce risks linked to body art in teens. Infectious Diseases in Children, 30(10), 17-17.
  5. [5]   Levin, L. I. R. A. N., & Zadik, Y. E. H. U. D. A. (2007). Oral piercing: complications and side effects. American journal of dentistry, 20(5), 340.
  6. [6]   Levin, L., Zadik, Y., & Becker, T. (2005). Oral and dental complications of intra‐oral piercing. Dental Traumatology, 21(6), 341-343.
  7. [7]   King, E. M., Brewer, E., & Brown, P. (2018). Oral piercings and their complications–how confident are we as a profession?. British dental journal, 224(11), 887.
  8. [8]   Deepak, A., & Jagannathan, N. (2016). Oral Piercing Complications-A Questionnaire Based Study. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, 8(7), 684.
  9. [9]   Hennequin‐Hoenderdos, N. L., Slot, D. E., & Van der Weijden, G. A. (2016). The incidence of complications associated with lip and/or tongue piercings: a systematic review. International journal of dental hygiene, 14(1), 62-73.
  10. [10]   Tomaževič, T., Gašperšič, R., & Kosem, R. (2017). Occurrence of Dental Injuries and Periodontal Complications in Tongue-piercing Jewellery Users. Oral health & preventive dentistry, 15(3).
  11. [11]   Dubose, C. J., & Pratt, L. C. S. J. W. (2004). Victim of fashion: endocarditis after oral piercing. Current surgery, 61(5), 474-477.
  12. [12]   Boardman, R., & Smith, R. A. (1997). Dental implications of oral piercing. Journal of the California Dental Association, 25(3), 200-207.

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