Hello again and a warm welcome to episode 026 of Elmar´s Tooth Talk – The missing link to total health. I am Dr Elmar Jung.
So, before we start, let me tell you What’s in it for you in this episode:
We talk about:
- WHAT is tongue piercing
- WHY people do it
- WHAT materials are used
- WHAT you should know before embarking on your piercing journey
- WHEN you should avoid tongue piercing
- WHAT are possible risks and side effects
- WHY aftercare is important
- Do’s and Don’ts during the healing
Today I am discussing a fad that has been around since the mid-1980s, which is very controversial, and a lot of people wonder how can anyone do this to their body. I am talking about piercing and especially tongue piercing.
What is tongue piercing?
Tongue piercing does not differ much from any other types of piercing. However, with tongue piercing it is not your skin that is perforated, but a very important muscular organ in the mouth.
The tongue is one of those body parts that we tend to take for granted, and many of life’s pleasures come from its presence. It helps us taste, chew and swallow great food and speak beautiful words.
If these activities are carried out with a metal or even plastic piercing in the tongue you have to be aware of the possible consequences.
The biggest challenge right from the start is to find a piercer who is a master in his trade, has experience, knows exactly what he is doing, works with sterile instruments and provides detailed information on the procedure, the risks and side effects
Tongue piercing Pioneer
The tattoo artist Horst Heinrich Linienbach is considered the pioneer of this alleged fashion jewellery. He performed the first documented tongue piercing in 1978.
Cultural Tongue Piercing
In some cultures, piercing the tongue has a religious background, but it does not result in permanent wearing of the jewellery.
The festival of the nine emperor gods held in Phuket every year is one of those events where people put themselves in a state of trance and then have their tongues pierced with swords, iron bars or other objects.
Why People do it
As with any other piercing, the jewellery in the tongue is a way to express the individuality.
People, young and old, use different tongue piercings to get a bold and cool look.
An expression of, I can do what I want with my body, it’s also I would add a sign of courage and of course for some it could be an act of rebellion against parents, society and of course some people probably find it just beautiful?
For others tongue piercing is simply body mutilation.
According to the German Society for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, over 40 percent of women between the ages of 14 and 24 in Germany had a piercing in 2009. For men in the same age group, the figure is 27 percent.
More recent studies show a decline in piercing.
In 2014, only 35 percent of all women between the ages of 14 and 24 were pierced and just under 8 percent for men.
Materials used for piercing
Different materials are used for piercing. In order of frequency, the most popular piercing materials are: steel, silicone, titanium, wood, plastic, horn, stone and glass.
WHAT you should know before embarking on your piercing journey
Before you open your mouth and have your tongue pierced, you should be well prepared. Here are a few thoughts worth considering.
Of course, you want to be sure that you are healthy and free of any infection. In case you got flu or fever, it is better to postpone the procedure.
Ask the piercer of your choice all the questions you might have about the procedure, risks and aftercare before the procedure.
You also have to be aware that your speech pattern might change
What to straight before the procedure
Have a substantial meal before the piercing. For one it will calm your nerves, and most likely you will be unable to eat any food straight after the procedure.
Clean your teeth, gums and especially scrape your tongue before the appointment. Rinse your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash such as tea tree essential oil.
Risks and Side Effects
Because the tongue is so well supplied with blood and nerves extreme caution is necessary to get the piercing in the right place. Pricking the wrong region can result in massive bleeding or nerve damage.
The greatest risk, for obvious reasons, is infection. For one because the tongue is naturally littered with bacteria. If these enter the puncture canal, serious infections can be caused. And using non-sterile instruments can cause the risk of infection.
Because the tongue is very well supplied with blood vessels any infection can spread very fast.
If an infection occurs, you may experience bleeding, tongue discolouration, pain, extra swelling, and even pus. If any of this appears or you just feel something isn’t quite right, call your GP.
A piercing advocate on his website recommends that to prevent infection, avoid contact with all body fluids for a few days after the piercing. I wonder if he has ever heard of saliva. I guess that would be a parlour to avoid.
An injury to the taste buds is rather unlikely, as these are located on the edge or in the back of the tongue and are therefore located outside the area where the piercing is normally placed.
Before piercing you should be aware that the stinging and the days afterwards are accompanied by blood, pain, swelling, impaired speech and numbness that usually go away.
Remaining speech disorders are rather rare.
There is also the risk of swallowing the piece of jewellery, which can often lead to very dramatic consequences if the good part ends up in the wrong channel in the throat.
Metals and Allergies
If there are other metals in your mouth, such as amalgam fillings, gold or metal bonded crowns, bridges or implants, then these metals will react with each other and create a kind of battery effect, which is often accompanied by a metallic taste.
A common risk is also an allergic reaction. Anyone who is allergic to nickel or any kind of metal should take a close look at the material to be introduced.
Many pierced people also report increased salivation, which can become annoying in the long run.
Risk for your teeth and gums
What remains, however, is the risk of injuring your teeth when speaking, eating, swallowing or playing around with the piercing.
Teeth can shift, scratch, crack, become sensitive, break or even die. The metal piercings are of course riskier than the plastic piercings, but these problems can also arise with them over time.
Gum problems and overgrowing tongue tissue have also been reported.
The piece of jewellery will constantly move inside your mouth and will inevitably have contact with your gums. Therefore, there is a high risk of getting your gums rubbed, which can consequently lead to gum recession.
Even more important than the procedure of piercing is what is happening after the piercing.
You should receive detailed instructions how to take care of your piercing.
A tongue piercing takes between six and eight weeks to completely heal. However, this depends a lot on how you care for your new piercing.
After the procedure, your tongue will swell which is absolutely normal and will last for about a week. It is recommended to eat soft food and talk as little as possible for a few days. To reduce the swelling you may soak the ice cube, use Olive Leaf extract or Bromelain and if needed take a pain killer.
Do’s and Don’ts during the healing
For your tongue piercing to properly heal, it’s very important that you follow some basic guidelines.
Make sure that you do:
- clean your teeth at least twice daily
- choose a gentle mouthwash such as organic essential oil
- look for signs of complications — especially an infection
Make sure you don’t:
- use a tongue scraper
- play with your jewellery
- touch the piercing without prior washing your hands
- drink hot beverages or alcohol,
- smoke or vape tobacco
- engage in French kissing and oral sex.
- Play contact sports
Also be aware when you remove the jewellery that the wound will close very quickly within just a few minutes.
Like with chewing gum, it can be quite annoying to be constantly exposed to your pierced counterpart while playing with the piercing.
The Good News
The good news at the end, teenagers usually grow out of the piercing phase and the body has a great healing capacity, so that only a small scar remains.
Let us conclude with the wisdom of: Beauty knows no pain
Until next time.
This is Elmar’s Tooth Talk, The missing link to total health.
Bye for now.