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The BBC's Richard Hannaford
"All piercing establishments should be licensed"
 real 28k

Friday, 30 June, 2000, 23:28 GMT 00:28 UK
Tongue piercing health warning
Tongue piercing
Tongue piercing can be hazardous
Dentists have issued a warning about the dangers of tongue piercing after a patient collapsed following heavy bleeding.

The British Dental Association say that tongue piercing is an "unnecessary hazard to general as well as oral health".

It warns that people who are determined to have piercings in the mouth should do everything they can to ensure the procedure is as safe as possible.


Potential complications of oral piercing
Infection
Airway obstruction
Prolonged bleeding
Chipped teeth
Nerve damage
Speech impediment
Hypersensitivity to metal

The British Dental Journal highlights the case of an otherwise fit and healthy 19-year-old woman who collapsed in her mother's care about four hours after having her tongue pierced and a bar-bell inserted.

She had undergone the procedure at a tattooist specialising in body piercing and had been told to rinse out her mouth after eating, drinking or smoking, not to eat hot or solid food and to suck on ice cubes to reduce the swelling.

She was not given any instructions on how to control bleeding.

Continuous bleeding

Her tongue bled continuously from the moment of piercing, and within an hour she was spitting out blood clots.

She bled continuously for the next three hours, and then collapsed, suffering from dangerously low blood pressure.

She had concealed the extent of bleeding by swallowing much of the blood as she was keen to go to a party with her friends that evening.


Minimising health risk
Suck ice cubes hourly for rest of day
If the tongue swells making swallowing or breathing difficult, go to casualty
Reduce infection risk by using hot salt water mouthbaths every four hours and after eating
Go to casualty if the area around the jewellery becomes red and tender
If the piercing site bleeds, compress it firmly with clean linen for up to 30 minutes
If the bleeding does not stop go to casualty, and ask to see a maxillofacial surgeon

One of the authors of the report Mr Peter Hardee, a maxillofacial surgeon at Barts and London NHS Trust, said: "She was lucky that somebody was there when she collapsed. If she had collapsed on her own she could well have bled to death."

Mr Hardee said the tongue is much thicker than most other body parts that were regularly pierced and served with a rich supply of blood.

Therefore, the risk of problems was much greater, particularly as a swelling of the tongue could lead to problems breathing.

He said that in an ideal world nobody would pierce their tongue, but given that people were likely to disregard medical advice then it was important that they were fully aware of what to do if things started to go wrong.

Mr Hardee and his colleagues have called for the government to inspect and license all piercing establishments.

They also recommend that all outlets which carry out piercing issue written advice to clients on potential dangers and how to cope with them.

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See also:

21 Jul 99 | Health
Tongue piercing 'can be fatal'
20 Jul 99 | Health
Tongue in chic
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