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Tongue Piercings Can Cause Tooth Gaps, Chips


That tiny silver stud your son or daughter had inserted after the tongue piercing may be a trend or a sign of independence or rebellion, but it also can cause gaps or chips in their front teeth. Results of several studies tell the story.

Playing with Tongue Piercings

A new case study by University of Buffalo (UB) researchers, for example, explains the story of a 26-year-old female patient who had had her tongue pierced seven years earlier. After years of “playing” with the silver stud in her mouth by pushing it between her upper front teeth, she had created a space between them.

The tooth gap (diastema) had not existed before the patient had the barbell-shaped stud inserted into her tongue. To remedy the situation, she had to get a fixed braces appliance to push her front teeth back together.

Sawsan Tabbaa, DDS, MS, assistant professor of orthodontics at the University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine and the author of the case study, also noted the results of a previous survey. In the earlier study, researchers found that among high school students who had had a barbell stud inserted in their tongue, a very high percentage of them had a habit of pushing the stud against and between their upper front teeth, a habit referred to as “playing.”

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Other Problems with Tongue Piercings
Tabbaa pointed out that tongue piercings can cause other damage besides gaps in the teeth. Some of them include infection, hemorrhage, fractured and chipped teeth, gum trauma, and in rare cases, brain abscess.

A study published in the March 2002 issue of the Journal of Periodontology, for example, reported on 52 young adults who had had their tongues pierced. Among those who had had a tongue stud for four or more years, 35 percent had recessed gums, and in those who wore long-stemmed barbells for two or more years, 50 percent had gum recession.

In addition to the recessed gums, chipped teeth occurred in 47 percent of the subjects who had had a barbell for four or more years. According to Dr. Kenneth Bueltmann, who served as president of the American Academy of Periodontology 2001-02, “anyone with a pierced mouth should receive a thorough oral examination of their gums and teeth to identify problem areas. Taking precautions now will increase your chance of keeping your teeth for a lifetime.”

Along with gaps and chips in your teeth, tongue piercings may also cause the tongue to swell, problems with chewing and swallowing, difficulties with speech, an increase in saliva flow, and hypersensitivity to metal. Clearly, a silver tongue may open a Pandora’s box of trouble.

Campbell A et al. Journal of Periodontology 2002 Mar; 73(3): 289-97
University of Buffalo news release, August 2, 2010