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Your Tongue Piercing Can Damage Your Gums and Pearly Whites

By Susan Braden


A study has shown that tongue piercings, such as metal barbells, may be the cause of gum or tooth damage. This study, which the American Academy of Periodontology states was originally published in the Journal of Periodontology, specifically noted that wearing a barbell for an excessive amount of time increases your chances of gum recession and chipped teeth. If you sport a metal tongue piercing that may be damaging to your pearly whites, you may want to look into getting a dental discount plan.

Gum Recession

A survey of 52 young people with tongue piercings was conducted by Loma Linda and Ohio State dentistry schools. Researchers then collected this data and discovered that 35% of the participants who had a pierced tongue for at least four years had receding gums. 50% of those with long-stemmed barbell piercings for at least two years also experienced recession of the gums.

Long-stemmed barbells (classified as over 5/8 of an inch long) are more dangerous to your mouth than shorter ones are. Dr. Dimitris Tatakis of Ohio State University noted, "During tongue movement, long-stem barbells are more likely to reach and damage the gums than short barbells. Over time, this damage may cause the gums to recede, which can lead to more serious dental and oral complications." Gum recession can lead to serious gum disease and infection--two things that could be very pricey to fix if you don't have a discount plan.

Chipped Teeth

In addition to the gum recession findings, almost 50% of those who wore barbells for at least four years had chipped teeth. Surprisingly, tooth chips were more common in those with short-stemmed barbells.

The chipped teeth appeared to be a result of the participants biting on the piercing. Tatakis explained, "A short barbell is possibly easier to position between teeth, which could be one reason why we are seeing more chipped teeth in this group." If your teeth are being constantly chipped away at by your piercing, a discount plan can help cover the cost of repairs.

Other Oral Effects

In a different study, 4500 people between the ages of 12-21 were surveyed by Dr. Timothy Roberts from the University of Rochester School of Medicine in New York. In this study, Dr. Roberts discovered that those who had any type of body piercing are more likely to smoke and develop other unhealthy habits, which can lead to poor oral health as well. A pierced tongue, for example, is more prone to swelling and may cause difficulty chewing, swallowing, or speaking.


Learn about Affordable Dental Plans

In light of these studies and oral effects, it is wise to consider the risks before you decide to get a tongue piercing. Dr. Kenneth Bueltmann, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, puts it best, saying, "Taking precautions now will increase your chance of keeping your teeth for a lifetime, instead of needing dentures like many of your grandparents."

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