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Last Updated: Friday, 23 May, 2003, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Tongue piercing warning
Tongue piercing is popular
Dentists have urged people against having their tongues pierced.

The latest warning follows the case of a 28-year-old woman who had to undergo emergency surgery to have a piercing removed.

Doctors found her piercing, a small metal rod, had become completely embedded in her tongue. She was unable to remove it.

Dentists said the case highlighted the dangers of tongue piercings.

Serious risks

They said piercings increase the risk of contracting a range of serious diseases and can also be potentially life threatening if the tongue becomes infected, swells up and blocks the airway.

It can also lead to teeth being chipped, infection and pain.

Personally, I think its crazy
Mervyn Druian, British Dental Association

Despite these risks, tongue piercings are becoming increasingly popular.

Celebrities like Spice Girl Mel B and Princess Anne's daughter Zara Phillips have had their tongues pierced.

Writing in the British Dental Journal, specialist registrar Tamer Theodossy, who works at University College Hospital London, said the risks made it difficult to condone tongue piercing.

"Although it would appear that most tongue piercings proceed uneventfully, the severity of the complications suffered make the practice of tongue piercing one which is difficult to condone," he said.

"Piercing of oral sites also carries a high risk of infection with the possibility of transmission of organisms such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, Herpes Simplex virus, Epstein-Barr virus and candida," he added.

Herpes Simplex is linked to cold sores and the Epstein-Barr virus causes glandular fever.

Mervyn Druian of the British Dental Association backed that view.

"These little appliances do chip teeth. They do cause infections. There is often a lot of infection with the placement of them," he told the BBC.

"It can cause enormous infection. The mouth is an area that can become infected very easily anyway."

He added: "I really think if one is going to go for this, personally I think its crazy, I think a medical person should put them in."

But David Potaznick who owns Metamorphosis, a piercing studio in London, said good hygiene was the key to ensuring there are no problems.

"All piercings can become infected if they are done incorrectly or they are not looked after.

"People getting pierced should go and find licensed premises that they know are good reputable studios.

"Everything should be sterilised. You should ask to see how it is sterilised. Don't be afraid to ask questions."

Tongue piercing health warning
30 Jun 00  |  Health
Tongue piercing 'can be fatal'
21 Jul 99  |  Health
'I like my pierced tongue'
20 Jul 99  |  Health

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