Tongue Piercing, Smokeless Tobacco, and Your Teen’s Oral Health

tongue piercing dangers

What are the biggest risks to adolescent oral health?

Without a doubt, tongue piercing has gained popularity in recent years. Though this practice has been around since the ancient Aztecs and the Mayans introduced it centuries ago, today’s teens and people of all ages have decided to try it. A few short years ago, 28 percent of the respondents to a survey about tattoos, piercings, and body modification, aged 18 and 29, said they like tongue piercings for women. 

Smokeless tobacco usage has also been on the rise since it gained popularity in the 1970s. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than two in every 100 adults aged 18 or older use smokeless tobacco products, representing 5.7 million adults. And in 2021, about 1 of every 100 high school students reported in a survey that they had used smokeless tobacco in the past 30 days. So what do these habits do to your teen’s oral health? And what are the smokeless tobacco and tongue piercing dangers that teens and their parents should know about?

What You Need to Know About Tongue Piercing Dangers 

Though tongue piercing has recently gained popularity amongst teenagers, it doesn’t mean that the process has become any safer. Many teenagers get tongue piercings because they want to express their growing individuality. 

Their parents may shrug it off, thinking it is inconsequential and a temporary phase their teen is going through. But unfortunately, there are many tongue-piercing dangers that teens and their parents need to be aware of. And the American Dental Association (ADA) advises against any oral piercing.

Aside from the risks of unlicensed piercing parlors and an increased risk of contracting tetanus, tuberculosis, and hepatitis from a procedure at one of these locations, tongue piercing alone can present several challenges. Oral piercings are highly correlated with various serious health concerns, such as those listed below.

Tongue Piercing Side Effects

  • Bacterial infections
  • Blood clots
  • Blood poisoning
  • Chronic pain
  • Damaged nerves in the tongue or mouth
  • Fractured or cracked teeth
  • Heart infections
  • Hypersensitivity due to the metal in the piercing itself
  • Gum recession leading to periodontal disease
  • Scarring from the piercing
  • Problems enunciating and speaking normally due to the foreign object in the mouth

Long-term problems can also occur and can be added to the list of tongue-piercing dangers. Those problems include a heightened susceptibility to tooth decay, gum disease, and oral infection. Tongue piercings also frequently catch on the tongue or teeth and can be ripped out of the tongue, causing severe pain and oral health issues.

What You Should Know About the Harmful Effects of Smokeless Tobacco

Teenagers are notorious for pushing boundaries, and it should be expected. After all, testing boundaries and limits is how teens establish independence and experience firsthand the differences between right and wrong. But unfortunately, since these young adults haven’t gathered much in the way of real-world experience, they can be subject to making the wrong decisions. And the dangers of choosing harmful habits in youth can harm their futures. Using smokeless tobacco is one of those unhealthy habits that can pay all the wrong dividends for decades.

Teens need to understand that no form of smokeless tobacco is a safe substitute for cigarettes. It’s important to note that smokeless tobacco includes items such as chewing tobacco, moist snuff, snus, and other tobacco-containing products that are not smoked. And for whatever reason, many teens believe that these products aren’t as dangerous as cigarettes, but they can still be extremely harmful. 

Smokeless tobacco causes cancer.

Common Cancers Correlated With the Use of Smokeless Tobacco

  • Mouth, tongue, cheek, and gum cancer
  • Esophageal cancer 
  • Pancreatic cancer

If your teen continues to use smokeless tobacco products or smoke cigarettes, they will be at higher risk for developing one of these illnesses. Be on the lookout for signs of oral cancer, including these.

Signs of Oral Cancer

  • Changes in the way their teeth fit together
  • Difficulty or pain moving the jaw
  • Mouth sores that don’t heal
  • Numbness or tenderness of the cheek, lip, or tongue
  • Red or white spots on the cheek, lip, or tongue

Healthier Alternatives to Smokeless Tobacco

Committing to quitting is the first step for your teen to identify healthier alternatives to smokeless tobacco. And your child has to commit themselves. This may mean third party intervention from their doctor, children’s dentist, or pediatric dentist. But the good news is that those healthy choices will come once your teen has decided to put their health first.

Are you looking for some healthier alternatives to recommend to your teen? Be sure to have some of these items in the kitchen, ready for your teen to grab when they feel the urge.

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Chewing gum
  • Sugar-free mints
  • Shredded beef jerky
  • Crunchy fruits and vegetables

And if those aren’t enough, talk to their doctor about nicotine patches or tobacco-free pouches that can make it easier for them to quit.

Concerned about smokeless tobacco and tongue piercing dangers for your teen?

If you have lingering concerns about smokeless tobacco and tongue-piercing dangers for your teen, it is time to request an appointment with their dentist. Seek out a dentist with a calming and comfortable environment to help put your teen at ease. During your teen’s appointment with their children’s dentist, they’ll learn more about the increased risk of tooth decay and oral cancer from these bad habits. Plus, your children’s dentist can provide specific statistics and photos of what can happen to the body due to these harmful behaviors. 

We know that parents worry about smokeless tobacco, tongue piercings, and so many other decisions their teens make. Let us help you make it a bit easier by partnering with you and your teen to help them make better decisions for their oral and overall health. Contact Staley Dental for an appointment today.