Dangers of oral piercings Published Sept. 3, 2013 By Capt. Jeremy Hamal 22nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, KAN. -- It is commonplace in this day and age to see kids walking around with an oral piercing, whether it is in the lip, the tongue, the cheek, or the uniquely European, "between the teeth" ring. The fashion merits of this kind of jewelry are subject to debate, yet there is an insidious health consequence that should be considered before subjecting your tongue to a through-and-through jab with a needle of questionable cleanliness. Most significantly, these piercings can seriously affect an individual's well-being. The human mouth is teeming with bacteria. We're talking billions of them. Any piercing can be considered a direct portal into the body, whereby these bacteria can enter and cause a potentially life-threatening infection. A swollen and infected tongue could block an airway, suffocating the hapless pierced victim. Regardless of the experience of the person doing the piercing, any piercing can cause uncontrollable bleeding or permanent nerve damage. Healing from any piercing can take upwards of six weeks. In the meantime, significant swelling and pain can occur. Even after a pierced site has healed, you're not in the clear yet, as dislodged jewelry can be swallowed or lodged in your lungs. Oral piercings frequently chip or crack teeth and quite often these conditions are not restorable ... the tooth must be extracted. Jewelry worn in the mouth can hinder your ability to speak and can even make eating a challenge. Given the potential for unwanted trips to the emergency room or your friendly dentist, it becomes difficult to rationalize the "coolness" of a trendy oral piercing. The decision to get any sort of piercing is one that can have major consequences to your oral health and it's important to be aware of possible consequences before getting pierced.