The Ugly Truth About Tongue Piercings

It may seem fashionable and fun, but tongue piercings can be extremely dangerous.

While it’s true that some people can pierce their tongues with no complications, you might not be so lucky.  After all, inserting a foreign object through such a vital part of your body is quite risky.

Your tongue is a muscle made up of fibrous tissue. It plays a significant role in speaking, eating, swallowing and chewing so if there’s a problem with it, many parts of your life will be impacted.

Here’s a look at some of the possible complications can can occur following a tongue piercing.


There are lots of blood veins in the tongue so the most common problem is usually bleeding. Blood is brought to the tongue by the lingual artery which branches out on the tongue. If an inexperienced piercing artist doesn’t know the location of these blood vessels, he or she could hit one and increase the chances of bleeding complications.

Since oxygen is required for the blood clotting process to occur, it’s sometimes difficult to stop mouth wounds from bleeding since there’s less oxygen inside your mouth. You may actually have to go to the emergency room if your tongue piercing won’t stop bleeding.


Another very common problem is infection. Lots of micro-organisms live in your mouth so when you have an open wound in your tongue (like a piercing) there’s a better chance of infection occurring. You could also get an infection if the needle used to pierce your tongue isn’t properly sterilized. In the worst-case scenarios, you could develop a secondary infection in your blood which can be life threatening.

Other serious infections that result from tongue piercings include Ludwig’s angina, a severe infection of the floor of your mouth and jaws. The condition causes the tongue to swell significantly which could impact your ability to breath. Tongue piercing can also cause endocarditis where bacteria enters the bloodstream and causes damage to your heart valves.

Nerve Injury

Two nerves are located in the tongue and if either is damaged by a tongue piercing, you will experience significant pain. Ultimately, you could loose your sense of taste entirely.

Chipped Teeth

Wearing a stainless steel barbell in your mouth could result in chipped or fractured teeth. These chips are not only unattractive, but they can lead to tooth infections which could require root canal therapy, crowns or even extractions. If you do have a tongue piercing, wear the smallest barbell you can to protect your teeth. Steel barbells can also damage existing restorations like fillings and crowns.

If you must wear a tongue piercing, opt for an acrylic balls or barbells instead of metal. And never, ever chew on a barbell to avoid damaging your teeth.

Metal Sensitivity

Your body may have an bad reaction to the metal in the barbell. Nickel commonly causes negative reactions so avoid cheap body jewelry. Always buy surgical grade stainless steel barbells for a tongue piercing.

Accidental ingestion

The balls on either end of the barbell can become loose over time. If this happens, you could swallow a ball or even the entire bar. That poses a significant choking hazard.

Increased Saliva

A foreign body in your mouth will prompt your salivary glands to make more saliva. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing — especially if you have dry mouth — it could cause some embarrassing drooling from the corners of your mouth.

Speech Irregularities

Your tongue places an important role in your speech patterns. The piercing could make it difficult for you to make certain sounds and force you to speak differently so you can be understood.

Difficulty Swallowing

Just like speech, your tongue is important to the swallowing process. Your tongue must actually touch the top of your mouth in order for you to swallow something. If the piercing interferes with that ability, you might have difficulty swallowing until you learn to compensate.

Bad Breath

Infections or food impacted in your tongue can cause an unpleasant odor in your mouth. Practice good oral hygiene and use antiseptic mouthwash after meals to control bacteria growth.

Tongue piercings are popular among younger people, but they do pose dangers. Consider these risks before getting a piercing and call our office if you have more questions.