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The GW Hatchet

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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Tongue-piercing trend is trouble for teeth, speech

(U-WIRE) IOWA CITY, Iowa – Getting your tongue pierced may be stylish, but it can result in mouth trauma.

Citing oral piercing as a “national health hazard,” members of the American Dental Association passed a resolution late last year opposing the practice for its role in hundreds of cases of mouth trauma nationwide. Local dentists said they have already seen enough to be convinced.

“Dentists hate them,” said Pam Pump, a certified dental assistant at Molly Moreland, D.D.S.

“A patient came in with a large, C-shaped (stud) in his tongue,” Pump said. “We discovered that eight of his teeth were fractured – some small enough that they were still within the enamel, others serious enough to require fillings. He had no insurance, and the procedure ended up costing him around $900.”

In addition to the danger that tongue studs pose to teeth, the ADA warns that tongue piercing also can lead to interference with chewing and speaking, hypersensitivity to metals and difficulty with breathing if the jewelry is swallowed. It also poses a risk for infection if foreign debris get stuck in the hole.

Most of the risks involved with tongue piercing can be avoided with proper care and prevention from the beginning, said Shannon Cleveland, owner of King

Stingray’s, a body-piercing boutique.

The entire tongue-piercing process takes less than six minutes to perform, including five minutes of preparation and about 30 seconds of actual piercing, Cleveland said.

First, the person getting pierced swishes his or her mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash to clean and numb the area – no other anesthetic is used. Cleveland marks the spot to be pierced with a cotton swab and a non-toxic ink, such as Indian ink. She places forceps around the tongue to hold it in place and uses a 12-gauge needle to make the hole, into which she places a stud. She then screws balls onto each end.

Cleveland, whose tongue is not pierced, said people rarely complain of pain during the procedure.

“The tongue is a really soft muscle,” she said. “Unless there has been any kind of accident and scar tissue has formed, the needle goes through it just like butter.”

For post-piercing care, Cleveland prescribes a regimen that includes brushing the area with a toothbrush and toothpaste, lots of water, vitamins and a gentle mouthwash. She also advises people who have had their tongues pierced avoid smoking and to eat soft foods for about a week.

After swelling has reduced, Cleveland said she encourages her clients to switch to a barbell smaller than the one used immediately after piercing, which, depending on the thickness of the person’s tongue, can be 5/8- to 1-inch long.

“I think tongue piercing became popular so fast, many people didn’t consider what kind of damage could be caused,” Cleveland said.

-by Crissy McMartin, The Daily Iowan

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