Be Edgy! Be Cool! Be Healthy!

June 03, 2011 | Posted in Education

While spring has been wet and cool, the promise of warmer weather for the summer seems just ahead. And as the summer clothes come out, teens and young adults bring out their new fashions, complete with tattoos and piercings that might make some of us parents a tad squeamish.

It may be hard for us to remember, but we probably did the same thing to our parents. Guys with long hair and pierced ears caused quite a furor when many of us were younger. Today, a pierced ear on a guy seems so tame!

Perhaps that is part of the issue and we as parents have to accept that our kids have a desire to push the envelope, just as we did. But as parents, we have a responsibility to educate our kids to make wise choices, just as our parents tried to.

And when it comes to piercings, there is a lot more to think about other than just how cool it looks. Particularly if we are talking about piercings of the lips, cheeks or tongue.

It may not be pleasant to think about it, but the tongue is prime breeding ground for bacteria. Millions of these organisms make their home in this small little area of the body. In fact, as much as 70% of the bacteria found in the mouth make their home on the tongue.

Bacteria build-up on the tongue can cause serious health concerns. Bacteria are live organisms. They like to grow and they like to move. Just because they start at the tongue does not necessarily mean they will stay there. They may easily move to the teeth and gums. And bacteria at the gum line it can cause periodontal disease.

More serious problems, such as infections, can occur if the bacteria find its way into the bloodstream. These infections may not necessarily remain in the mouth. Blood flows throughout the body and it can transport those bacteria wherever it goes.

Keeping your tongue clean by brushing it is always important. If you are thinking of getting your tongue or lips pierced, you have even more reason to keep your tongue clean. The piercing creates an open wound that gives easy access for the bacteria to get into the blood stream. Just think of the infections that could result!

Even if you manage to avoid any infections from the piercing, you have created a great place for bacteria to accumulate. People with pierced tongues who fail to properly clean around the piercing are more likely to have bad breath that those without piercing.

We certainly recommend against piercings, but we recognize that the desire to be edgy and cool may trump good health advice. Should that be the case, it is vital that you keep the area around the piercing as clean as possible.

Regular visits to your dentist can help in this regard. S/he will be able to let you know if there are any early signs of infection around your piercing. Because avoiding the spread of infection is a healthy habit…and healthy habits lead to healthy lives.

Dr. Martin LaBoissonniere

Dental Surgeon