Tongue-Tied: A Few Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Your Tongue

As cheesy as it may sound, your mouth wouldn’t be complete with your tongue. It is the reason you can talk and differentiate the good food from the ones that taste bad. Can you imagine living without one? That would be unspeakable!

Ditch that though and save your tongue a lot of trouble by taking note of these things:

Tongues need cleaning
Your tongue needs caring as much as your teeth and gums. After all, it’s part of your mouth, and therefore also gets filthy from all the food, drink and whatever things you put on it. Because it is used constantly, your tongue, which is covered in papillae, the little bumps on its surface, traps germs and harbor a variety of bacteria species on it. These nasty organisms on the tongue can cause bad breath and even affect your sense of taste. Furthermore, overabundance of bacteria may discolor your tongue, turning it white, yellow, or black and hairy-looking. Yuck!

Make it a habit that you include your tongue each time you do your brushing and try to reach until the back. It may trigger a gag reflex, but it will ease up in due course.

Some tongues need special care
A coated and crusty tongue may represent a person’s problems with mouth breathing, physical dexterity, or taking medications that dry the mouth. To risk damaging your mouth’s tissue, brush or scrape it after cleansing your teeth. Or keep it moist for 10 to 15 minutes with a mouth-moisturizing gel or spray first before scrubbing it clean.

Tongues can get cancer
Stick your tongue out and check for signs of oral cancer in front of a mirror at least once a week. Oral cancer appears as a sore or growth in the mouth. You should look out for white or red patches or cuts in your mouth that do not heal after a few weeks, as well as for any skin changes, or swelling or thickening on the tongue, lips, or gums.

During regular dental check-up, make it a point that your dentist in Scottsdale gives your tongue a once-over to ensure you’re free from oral cancer and other tongue problems like soreness and discoloration.

Tongue piercings hurt your mouth
Because the mouth is already loaded with germs and bacteria, the risk of tongue piercing or lip piercing infection is higher in this area than on any part of the body. Plus, the act of tongue-piercing itself is known to damage the nerves of your tongue causing an altered sense of taste or permanent drooling.

If you are still intent on having your tongue pierced, make certain that your dentist has informed you of ways on how to manage them to avoid any possible complications and that you let an experienced artist do it for you.

Your tongue is unique
Similar to a finger imprint, your tongue is one of a kind. No other tongue in the world has the same imprints as yours. How fascinating is that?

Tongue Piercings Harm Your Gums, Too!

In the recent years, tongue piercings seem to be gaining popularity. However, most people who have their mouth pierced have not considered the consequences of having one. Because piercings are trendy and it makes them “fit in”, people don’t really mind what could happen to their dental health in the long run.

Oral piercings, particularly tongue piercings in this case, can cause severe damage to your gums. There are even complications that lead to life threatening circumstances. Numerous piercing complications include developing speech impediments, uncontrollable and excessive drooling, damaged nerve, and bad breath. But one of the worse effects of oral piercing is probably gum recession.

Since tongue piercings rest near the gum line, it heightens the risk for gum recession. It is when the soft tissues of the gum recede and wear away, exposing the tooth root. This irreversible damage to the gums may start to show within just a few weeks after having your mouth pierced. In worse cases, even the hard tissues can be affected. When recession happens, lost tissues will never grow back to their full thickness.

If you wear a barbell or disc-shaped backing in your tongue, it can rub up against your gums, irritating it. Eventually, as it continues to make contact with the gums, it erodes the soft tissue gradually, making it thinner, leaving the roots of your teeth exposed. Although there are discs that now have rubber bumpers attached to them to prevent the metal part from making direct contact with the gums, these does not stop or prevent gum recession. They only slow the process down a bit.

Once your tooth roots are exposed, it can be very detrimental to your oral health. They do not only look bad, exposed tooth roots also cause hypersensitivity. So with oral piercings, you may never enjoy your ice cream or coffee the same way again. And it gets worse.

Tooth roots don’t have enamel—a hard substance that defends your teeth against decay and infections. With your gum receded, your tooth roots are up for major plaque buildup, which can quickly lead to decay and gum disease infections. These are both leading causes of loss of tooth among adults.

If you have an oral piercing and notice that your gums are starting to recede, removing the oral jewelry the soonest you discover the recession is best thing you can do. As earlier mentioned, gum recession is irreversible. If it gets worse, you can only correct it with a surgical procedure called gum graft. Clinically known as connective soft tissue graft, a gum draft is performed by taking soft tissue from the roof of your mouth and placing them onto the receded part of the gum. The procedure itself is usually quick, and its result typically looks great. But would you really want to risk such complication just to look “cool”?

Now that you know how badly oral piercing can affect your oral health, would you still want one? Schedule an appointment with a dentist in Scottsdale for a checkup or to discuss any questions about tongue piercing and oral health.

Signs of infection or complications
Signs that you may have infection or other complications include bleeding after the piercing has healed; green or yellow discharge in the pierced site; a persistent low-grade fever following the piercing; and scarring or darkening in the pierced area. If you notice any of these problems, consult a dentist right away. It’s important for dentists in Scottsdale to check your mouth—tongue, teeth, gums and soft tissues—for signs of any complications.

Treatment for Complications
There is a wide range of treatment options available for oral piercing complications—from taking antibiotics to undergoing intubation.

If complications occur and people choose to permanently close the infected piercing, it is recommended to wait for the infection to heal first before removing the jewelry. Although healed, it may leave a scar tissue or tiny indentation at the area of the piercing.

Tongue splitting has a lot of risks involved, too. In cases where people opt to have it reversed, a surgical procedure is required to repair the spit. That’s why ADA does not encourage patients to undergo tongue splitting. They also recommend dentists who are ADA members to educate their patients about the risks that this form of surgery brings.

Other Considerations
From dealing with the risk of infections and diseases to maintaining it on a daily basis, oral piercings can provide a handful of complications and considerations. Adding up to the list is the jewelry selection.

Jewelry for oral piercing should be made of non-toxic metal substances like titanium, 14- or 18-karat gold, niobium, or surgical stainless steel. If you have vulnerable or sensitive skin, you might want to stay away from nickel-containing jewelry to avoid allergic reactions.

These materials can be quite expensive, so if the price goes beyond your budget, then oral piercing is most likely not for you. Whatever the circumstances, make certain to consult with your dentist beforehand to limit any complications to a minimum.

Health Complications from Oral Piercings

To some, piercings and tongue-splitting are forms of self-expression and body art. However, if you’re considering getting one yourself, make sure you know exactly what you are going to sign up for. Here is several health risks related to oral piercings.

Gum Disease: When oral piercings such as long-stem or barbell tongue jewelry come in contact with gum tissues, it can cause injury and gum recession. This leads to loose teeth, and probably tooth loss later on.

Bacterial Infections: Your mouth already has a vast amount of bacteria in it, and adding up to that from handling the jewelry, not to mention the wound it created, can increase the risk of infections.

Disease Transmission: Oral piercings have been identified a potential risk factor for transmitting diseases such as hepatitis B, C, D and G, herpes, and simplex virus.

Endocarditis: A pierced tongue or any other tissue can allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream. This can then lead to a person with underlying heart conditions to develop a heart or valve inflammation known as endocarditis.

Teeth Damage: Oral jewelries can crack or chip the teeth over time.

Increased Production of Saliva: Because piercings encourage excessive saliva production, simple daily tasks such as chewing and swallowing food, as well as speaking become difficult to do if your tongue is pierced. Drooling, whether temporary or permanent, is another one of its downside. Your sense of taste may be altered, too.

Damaged Nerve: Oral piercings damage nerves. People who have piercings usually loss their sense of taste or they feel numb at the punctured area. Some even have a problem moving their pierced tongue. Furthermore, bleeding for long periods of time can happen if blood vessels are ruptured. There are cases, too, where people have difficulty breathing because the tongue is swelling severely enough to block the airway.

Allergic Reactions: Metal can cause allergic reactions. Allergic contact dermatitis, a hypersensitivity reaction, may occur to people vulnerable to metal.

Aspiration to Jewelry: A loose jewelry in the mouth can be a choking hazard. In worse cases, it can injure the lungs or the digestive tract if swallowed.

There are numerous potential oral damages and health risks of piercings. If you have made up your mind to go through with it despites these, then consider the following:

  • If you know someone with a piercing in their cheeks, lips or tongue and did not have any complications whatsoever, get to know where they had the piercing procedure done.
  • Go to the piercing studio and have a look around. Check if the surroundings are clean, especially the part where the procedure is done, and if the staff uses disposable gloves, hospital-grade autoclaves, and sterilized equipment, needles and jewelries. Also, ask for their health certificates. These factors would hint at how sterile and safe the piercing procedure will be.
  • In addition, make sure the studio’s staff members are vaccinated against hepatitis B.
  • Lastly, visit your Scottsdale dentist before going through the procedure. Your Scottsdale dentist will ensure that your mouth is in good shape to prevent any piercing complications in the future.

Signs That You May Have a Tongue Piercing Infection

An infected tongue piercing can be painful and inconvenient, especially for anyone who may be considering cosmetic dentistry. If you have an infected tongue piercing and need to get dental work done, it is important to get the infection under control to avoid any type of complication that could arise.

Read on to learn more about tongue piercing infections and what you can do to prevent or remedy a painful infection.

There are a number of reasons why people get their tongue pierced. Typically, a tongue piercing heals quickly without any issues. However, being that our tongue is sensitive and where it lies has a mouth-full of bacteria, there will always be a chance of infection. That is why it is important to be aware of certain risks that tongue rings may cause.

Knowing the signs of a potential tongue piercing infection can help you detect the brewing problem and treat it before it even turns into a massive health complication.

Signs of Infection
Infections from piercings are mostly caused by a variety of bacteria living in the mouth. Since bacteria can rapidly accumulate and spread throughout the teeth, inside of the cheeks, and the tongue, getting a mouth piercing can heighten your chances of an infection. Although infections caused by a tongue piercing can be remedied, preventing the problem is still the best cure. Below are some of the common signs of an infection that you should take note of.

A bit of swelling around the pierced area is normal. But if it continues or worsens 8 weeks after the piercing, and is accompanied by difficulty speaking and swallowing, it may mean that your tongue is infected. If you experience any of these symptoms long after the procedure, immediate medical attention and treatment is required.

During the healing period, slight redness on and around the pierced area is also normal. But then again, if the redness persists and it is accompanied by pain and swelling, it only means your tongue piercing has infections.

Red streaks
These red streaks are generally seen at the hole of the tongue piercing and running down the front or sides of the tongue. The presence of these streaks, plus fever and painful tenderness, indicates an advanced piercing infection. Immediately consult your dentist for antibiotic treatments upon noticing this symptom.

As with redness and swelling, bleeding may occur after piercing. It’s normal. However, if the pierced area bled after the initial healing period, then it may be a sign of an ongoing infection.

Discoloration and discharge
If your tongue turns to green, purple, yellow, or black, be wary. Extreme discoloration usually indicates that the infection has taken the next level and gotten worse. This sign may also be accompanied by pus, a green or yellow discharge that comes out of an infection. Seek prompt medical attention and adequate treatment as soon as you notice these changes in your tongue.

A pierced tongue is usually fully healed within six to eight weeks after the procedure. While swelling and irritation is quite normal during the first 2 weeks of the healing period, these symptoms along with other signs can also mean that your tongue piercing may be infected. In such events, immediate action is called for. If the symptoms mentioned do not dissipate two months after the tongue piercing, consult a doctor or dentist to receive antibiotic therapies and medical treatments.

Caring for your Oral Piercing

Oral piercings can cause a lot of health complications, especially if it isn’t done the right way. But if you are one of the individuals who have decided to take the risk despite its drawbacks, you can maintain your piercing with these vital tips.

How to Care for a Tongue Piercing
A pierced tongue takes about six to eight weeks to fully heal. During this period, it is important that you regularly rinse your mouth with warm salt water to keep infections at bay. Right after the procedure, the pierced area is usually going to swell. Cold beverages and food may also help reduce tongue swelling. Warm drinks and food are fine, too. Avoid food and beverages that are hot as these can worsen the swelling.

When this symptom goes down, you can cut back on salt water rinsing, although frequent rinsing is preferred due to the fact that food particles may get stuck within the pierced area.

In addition, it is advisable that you stick with mashed and liquid food during the first three to five days to prevent accidentally tearing the piercing. Stay away from spicy, sticky and hard food. Because you’ll be on a soft food diet during the initial mouth piercing’s healing period, you most probably will not be able to eat a lot of proteins. To make up for lost nutrients, take dietary supplement drinks. You can go back to your solid food diet after this but be sure to rinse thoroughly after eating anything, including snacks. Avoid eating popcorn though. Although you are allowed to eat solid foods a week after the procedure, you should still refrain from eating popcorn for much longer as these sinful delights have tiny hard pieces that can get trapped around the piercing jewelry, which can be difficult to remove.

Using tobacco-based products or smoking is not recommended when the piecing has not completely healed. Alcohol should be avoided as well.

More on Tongue Piercing Care
Two months after the piercing, or until it’s fully healed, normal dental care, like brushing, flossing, and mouthwash rinsing would suffice. Once your tongue is healed, be sure to remove the piercing and brush it each night during the first six months. However, do not clean your piercing with hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. Some mouthwashes contain alcohol, so be mindful of the ingredients of the antiseptic mouthwash that you will use. If you can’t find one that does not have alcohol, then dilute the mouthwash with water.

Dentists in Scottsdale recommend removing the jewelry every time you eat and sleep. Doing so will protect your teeth. You can use certain plugs to cover the hole when you remove the ornament. These plugs may be bought in piercing stores.

Before doing anything strenuous, consider removing the ornament. Metal studs can cause traumatic injuries to the teeth such as chipping and tooth fracture.

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