Body piercing has become a popular form of self-expression, especially for, but not limited to, young adults. Oral piercing is becoming trendier, but it is not without risks and complications. The tongue is the most common site for piercing, with the lips, uvula (soft tissue hanging from the back of the palate), cheeks and a combination of these sites also being pierced.

Be sure the procedure is performed by qualified professionals who use disposable gloves, disposable or sterile instruments and sterilized jewelry. For several days after the piercing, you can expect swelling, pain, increased salivary flow and sometimes infection. There may be prolonged bleeding from punctured blood vessels.

The healing period is usually 3-6 weeks before the permanent device (hoops, studs, barbells) can be placed. During the healing stage, avoid spicy foods, alcohol and smoking. Use antiseptic or warm salt-water mouth rinses; keep talking to a minimum for the first few days; and refrain from French kissing and intimate oral contact for at least two weeks to minimize infection risk. Complications arising from oral piercing include chipped teeth, allergic reactions, change in the way food tastes due to interfering with taste buds, and problems with speech, chewing and/or swallowing.

After healing and to minimize complications, people should remove their jewelry once a day for cleaning and irrigate the hole with water. For those with tongue piercing, the tongue should be brushed every day. Proper care should be taken during strenuous contact sports. Removal of the jewelry is suggested during participation in contact sports.

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