Tongue piercing is a historical ritual to honor the gods. But, somehow I don’t think the 20 something college crowd has this in mind when they walk into the local body piercing studio and have their tongues clamped and studded. As a mother of 3 young adults I thought it best to get some facts around this issue before I’m confronted with it in my own home.Piercing the tongue has a long history in religious practices from the Aztec and Maya cultures that practiced blood letting from the tongue to the Islamic and Far East practice of tongue piercing as an offering and proof of a trance state in meditation. These piercings were of a temporary nature, but today’s permanent or long term piercing of the tongue is part of a larger resurgence of body piercing in contemporary society. Most tongue piercings are done as a counter culture statement or done to enhance sexual pleasure for one’s partner. By no means have they become mainstream, but all types of body piercings have increased in recent years.Tongues have an exceptional healing ability and piercings can close very fast. Completely healed piercings can close in a matter of hours if jewelry is removed. This is the good news for someone who has piercing remorse after a rash decision (unlike tattoos which involve a long and expensive removal process).The most common side effect of a tongue piercing is immediate swelling of the tongue for a short period of time after being pierced. The American Dental Association (ADA) reports possible secondary adverse outcomes from oral piercings include increased salivary flow, damage to teeth and restorations, scar tissue formation, and the development of metal hypersensitivity. The most common long-term complications are dental fractures and dental wear. Tooth damage is the result of rubbing the jewelry barbell along his/her teeth or biting down on the barbell with the teeth causing a dental fracture. Additional tooth damage is caused by repeatedly pushing the piercing against the front teeth. This causes the gums to recede and the bone underneath to be reabsorbed by the body. This can ultimately loosen the tooth and cause them to fall out – Yikes! If any of this occurred, I would ask for a reimbursement for all the orthodontic treatment that I have paid for over the years for straight perfect teeth. Needless to say the ADA (and I would guess most mothers) do not support the practice of tongue piercing.Piercings interfere with eating and speech. New piercers need to learn to talk all over again especially Ss and Ts. Re-learning how to eat and speak is not something I would wish for my grown children. To me this seems like a lot of effort for a piece of jewelry that ideally you don’ want anyone to notice.The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has identified piercing as a possible vector for blood borne hepatitis B and C transmission. More serious complications include puncturing the lingual artery which will cause the tongue to bleed and swell which in turn can obstruct the airway and cause asphyxiation. Some very rare cases of tongue piercings leading to fatal brain abscesses or episodes of endocarditis have been reported.If you are going to have a piercing done, be sure to do your homework and find a clean, safe piercing shop and choose a professional with a good reputation to perform the piercing. Watch to ensure they wash their hands with a germicidal soap before doing the procedure. Ask them to wear disposable gloves, use sterilized tools and a new needle for your piercing. Not that anyone would, but do not pierce yourself or let anyone who is not a professional do your tongue piercing.I’ll admit the risk of death by piercing of any body part remains very, very low but it is always good to be informed of all risks, complications and motherly concern. Now knowing the facts about tongue piercing, if my grown daughter tells me she pierced her tongue I will just bite mine!