Tongue Piercing 101

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Piercing the tongue, lip, and cheeks as a form of body art has grown in popularity with adolescents and young adults over the last few years. Here are some important facts to consider before deciding to get your tongue pierced:

What is a tongue piercing?

A tongue piercing is: the piercing of a small hole through the centre of the tongue that is completed with the insertion of a stainless steel ball, or oral jewelry (similar to an earring). No local anesthetic or numbing agent is used.

What are the complications associated with a tongue piercing?

Common complications associated with an oral piercing include swelling, bleeding, infection, chipped teeth, recession of the gums, and nerve damage.


Swelling of the tongue following the piercing is both common and dangerous as it can make swallowing, talking, eating, and breathing difficult. If swelling is severe, the entire airway can be blocked resulting in little or no passage of oxygen to the body.

There is a risk of bleeding following piercing due to the large amount of blood vessels in the tongue. Bleeding can continue for minutes or hours after the procedure and blood loss can be a major concern.


There is a high level of bacteria in our mouths and piercing the tongue puts people at risk for infection. Infection may happen in the mouth, but a secondary infection can also occur elsewhere in the body. There have been cases of infection in the brain following a tongue piercing. Improper sterilization of piercing needles can lead to a risk of Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C, which effects the liver.

Chipped teeth

Tongue jewelry can cause damage to adjacent teeth. Chips and fractures in teeth and dental fillings are common because the jewelry is in contact with the teeth when talking and chewing.

Recession of the gums

In the same way that the jewelry rubs up against the teeth, the same rubbing can happen to the gums which can cause the gums to recede.

Nerve Injury

The tongue is supplied by the hypoglossal nerve and the lingual branch of the trigeminal nerve. These nerves can be damaged during piercing and permanent paralysis of the tongue can occur.

If you have questions or concerns about tongue piercings, or other dental questions, contact the team at Simon Pong Dentistry — we’re here to help.

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