- The practice has become increasingly fashionable in recent
years and has been made famous by stars like Scary Spice and the Princess
Royal's daughter Zara Phillips.
- But the British Dental Association (BDA) says tongue
piercing can cause infections, speech impediments, breathing problems and
- It says piercing always carries a risk of infection,
but that risk is greater with mouth piercing because of the closeness of
- Infection can cause the tongue to swell, blocking or
restricting the airway.
- In addition, bacteria under the tongue often spread quickly
and can lead, in extreme cases, to the potentially fatal toxic shock syndrome
or blood poisoning.
- If piercing equipment is not sterilised, there is also
the risk of infections like HIV and hepatitis being passed on.
- Allergy danger
- The BDA says studs can come loose and can be swallowed
or inhaled, leading to breathing problems.
- And accidentally biting a tongue stud can cause teeth
- There is also the possibility of a person developing
an allergic reaction to a stud if it is not made from gold, titanium or
- Scary Spice - Mel G - is one of a growing number of people
to have their tongues pierced. Other potential dangers include deep cyst
formation, scarring, damage to veins and nerves and neuromas - overgrowths
of nerve tissue.
- Some orthodontists refuse to do any work on people with
pierced tongues because of its effect on muscle position and the possible
risk of encouraging speech impediments.
- Dr Geoff Craig, chair of the BDA's health and science
policy group, said: "People having tongue piercings are putting not
just their oral health, but their general health at risk - and we strongly
advise people not to."
- But a spokesman said: "We have to live in the real
world and realise people do have their tongues pierced.
- "If they do, they should make sure it is done as
cleanly and hygienically as possible."
- Cleaning advice
- The BDA says people should ask their dentists for advice
on oral hygiene while the piercing is healing.
- This includes advice on brushing to avoid inflaming the
tongue and the need to use mouthwash to clean the bits of the mouth which
the brush cannot reach.
- Dr Craig said they should also ensure that their piercer
sterilises equipment properly, using a device called an autoclave.
- This costs at least £1,500 so the BDA says some
piercers may not use it.
- The association says anyone can carry out piercings,
although those who operate premises should be licensed by local environmental
- The European Professional Piercers' Association (EPPA)
runs a voluntary register of about 450 piercers.
- This monitors standards and trading in piercing and can
be contacted on 0117 9603923.
- The BDA says little research has been done into the cases
where tongue piercing has gone wrong, but a member of the EPPA said she
thought problems were not too widespread.
- One case which was published in the British Dental Journal
concerned a 25-year-old woman who was admitted to hospital after her tongue
swelled up and she had difficulty swallowing.
- She was found to be suffering from a rare condition called
Ludwig's angina which did not respond to antibiotics.
- The stud was surgically removed, but the woman later
collapsed. She left hospital eight days later after further treatment.