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Oral Health Topics

Oral Piercing

Key Points

  • Oral piercing of the tongue, lip, cheek, or other soft tissues is a form of body art and self-expression. Oral piercings are more typically seen in adolescents and young adults, and the tongue is considered the most common site for oral-piercing placement.
  • Complications associated with oral piercing include: swelling, bleeding, infection, chipped or damaged teeth, gingival recession, lacerations/scarring, embedded oral jewelry (requiring surgical removal), airway obstruction, hypersalivation, palatal erythema, keloid formation, and purulent or unusual or discharge from the pierced region.
  • Tongue splitting is a less common form of body modification within the oral cavity. By definition, the tongue-splitting process is one in which an individual’s tongue is severed into two pieces using various techniques. The procedure is inherently invasive and dangerous, with significant risks of severe bleeding, infection, inflammation, lingual nerve damage or other complications.
  • The ADA advises against the practices of cosmetic intraoral/perioral piercing and tongue splitting, and views these as invasive procedures with negative health sequelae that outweigh any potential benefit.

  • Background
  • Complications of Oral Piercing
  • Risks Associated with Tongue Splitting
  • Dental Considerations for Patients with Oral Piercing
  • References
  • ADA Resources
  • Additional Resources
Prepared by: Center for Scientific Information, ADA Science Institute
Reviewed by: Scientific Information Subcommittee, ADA Council on Scientific Affairs
Last Updated: November 28, 2016


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