The case of the 'second tongue'

March 15, 2006

Body piercing is popular today in the United States and other western societies. One common type of body piercing is tongue piercing, which involves placing a "barbell"-type stud through the tongue. But wearing a tongue stud puts people at risk for chipped teeth, recessed gums, and nerve damage, warns the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).

However, most people don't realize that getting an oral piercing also places them at risk for developing a fatal infection or, in some cases, a mini-tongue, according to a report in the January/February 2006 issue of General Dentistry, the AGD's clinical, peer-reviewed journal.

In the report, a young woman's pierced tongue developed a large, round lump adjacent to the piercing. The lump, which she called her "second tongue," didn't hurt, nor was it infected, but it was growing. This mass was determined to be a scar tissue formation. Improvement was noted after oral hygiene was increased (frequent use of mouthwash and hydrogen peroxide mouthwash) and the tongue stud was replaced with a shorter shaft.

"Keep the wound clean. Make sure the bar is short so food and bacteria won't enter the site," advises Ellis Neiburger, DDS, lead author of the study. "Replace the metal barbell heads with plastic ones."

The number of adults between ages 21 and 31 who have their tongue pierced continues to increase, notes Melvin K. Pierson, DDS, FAGD, AGD spokesperson, despite his efforts to educate his patients about the dangers.

Although this article cited an extreme case, there are some very common dangers associated with tongue piercing. Unclean piercing equipment can cause other infections, such as bloodborne hepatitis. Also, if a patient is not instructed to avoid touching the piercing, they might spread infections with their own fingers.

"I see a lot of damage caused by piercing---tooth fractures, tooth chips. Patients don't see the relation between them and piercing, which weakens the tooth. The damage is almost always in the pre-molars, the middle teeth, almost parallel to the piercing," says Dr. Pierson. "The best way to prevent damage is to not get your tongue pierced."

"I don't recommend piercing," says Dr. Pierson. "Because of the risks associated with this unregulated procedure, if someone is considering an oral piercing, he or she should discuss it with their medical or dental professional."

Hazards of tongue piercing:
  • Infection due to unsterile instruments.
  • Pierced blood vessel or artery.
  • Development of scar tissue.
  • Tooth fractures and chips.
    -end-
    The Academy of General Dentistry is a non-profit organization of more than 35,000 general dentists dedicated to staying up-to-date in the profession through continuing education. A general dentist is the primary care provider for patients of all ages and is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of services related to patient's oral health needs. Learn more about AGD member dentists or find more information on dental health topics at www.agd.org/consumer.

    Academy of General Dentistry

    Related Nerve Damage Articles from Brightsurf:

    COVID ventilator patients can have permanent nerve damage
    Severely ill COVID-19 patients on ventilators are placed in a prone (face down) position because it's easier for them to breathe and reduces mortality.

    Temple scientists regenerate neurons in mice with spinal cord injury and optic nerve damage
    Each year thousands of patients face life-long losses in sensation and motor function from spinal cord injury and related conditions in which axons are badly damaged or severed.

    Synthetic nerve conduit bridges the gap in arm nerve repair
    A team of scientists has created a biodegradable, synthetic conduit that repairs large gaps in injured nerves, which supported recovery and accelerated neuronal healing in a macaque model.

    Multiple sclerosis: Endogenous retrovirus HERV-W key to nerve tissue damage
    Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (CNS) affecting brain and spinal cord.

    Da Vinci's hand impairment caused by nerve damage, not stroke, suggests new study
    A fainting episode causing traumatic nerve damage affecting his right hand could be why Leonardo da Vinci's painting skills were hampered in his late career.

    Gene therapy blocks peripheral nerve damage in mice
    Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed a gene therapy that blocks axonal degeneration, preventing axon destruction in mice and suggesting a therapeutic strategy that could help prevent the loss of peripheral nerves in multiple conditions.

    Nerve damage in type 2 diabetes can be detected in the eye
    By examining the cornea of the eye with a special microscope it may be possible within ten minutes to diagnose if a person with type 2 diabetes has nerve damage.

    A blueprint for future blood-nerve barrier and peripheral nerve disease research
    Researchers have detailed, for the first time, the normal human transcriptome of the blood-nerve barrier.

    Zika-related nerve damage caused by immune response to the virus
    The immune system's response to the Zika virus, rather than the virus itself, may be responsible for nerve-related complications of infection, according to a Yale study.

    Autoimmunity may underlie newly discovered painful nerve-damage disorder
    An analysis of the medical records of patients treated at Massachusetts General Hospital for an often-mysterious condition involving damage to small nerve fibers supports the hypothesis that some cases are caused by autoimmune disease and also identifies the first effective treatment option.

    Read More: Nerve Damage News and Nerve Damage Current Events
  • Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.