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Oral piercing can cause dental health problems
Updated: 2/25/2011 5:00:13 PM

Piercings anywhere in the mouth can become infected from high amounts of bacteria in the area Many individuals who consider having their tongue pierced think that the only side effects of the procedure may be slight swelling or slurred speech, but the American Dental Association (ADA) warns that more serious dental problems can ensue.

The mouth is a warm, moist environment in which bacteria thrive, the ADA explains. This may allow infections to spread quickly and possibly become life-threatening if not treated.

People who have underlying heart conditions or family history of heart problems should be especially wary of oral piercings. The punctures carry a potential risk of endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart valves or tissues. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the open holes and travel to the heart, where they can colonize and cause heart abnormalities, the ADA states.

Nerves in the tongue may also sustain permanent damage from the penetration, which can affect one's taste and mouth movements.

Reversing tongue piercing damage can be expensive, as one woman told USA Today.

The 26 year-old female's tongue was pierced for seven years with a barbell, which caused a large gap between her front teeth due to the stud constantly pushing up against them. Eventually, she needed braces to fix the gap, the news source reported.

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