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Tongue piercing 'ups the risk of hepatitis'

DENTISTS have warned fans of piercing that they risk diseases like hepatitis as well as being left with a permanent drool.

The Irish Dental Association (IDA) is urging young people to make themselves aware of the dangers before getting a tongue, lip- or mouth-piercing.

Its members see an increase in the number of young people presenting with 'oral piercing-related issues' between August and December.

Anecdotal evidence suggests this may be due to young people attending music festivals, going on holidays with their friends and also students preparing to start college, the IDA said.

IDA president Dr Sean Malone said: "Anyone who gets an oral piercing will damage their oral health. In many cases that damage will be irreversible."


He pointed out that the tongue is integral to speech and if a piercing becomes infected, there is a risk of irreparable damage.

"At the very least, you will damage your front teeth. Whatever their situation, we would urge any young person who is considering getting a tongue, lip or mouth piercing to first of all make themselves aware of the dangers beforehand."

The IDA pointed out that young people with heart murmurs could be especially at risk.

When a tongue or lip is pierced, bacteria can enter the mouth, and in some circumstances this leads to infective endocarditis – this occurs when the bacteria attach to an abnormal section of a young person's heart, leading to serious illness.

The IDA said that one of the more painful and unpleasant aspects of oral jewellery takes place when gums recede.

In order to correct receding gums, the patient must undergo painful grafting of the gum, a treatment that will help alleviate some pain and infection, but can never return the gum to full health.

The IDA has now called for the introduction of a regulatory code in Ireland and the EU for piercing establishments.

It warned that other symptoms of piercings can include:

* Difficulty speaking clearly;

* Difficulty chewing and swallowing food;

* Chipped or damaged teeth;

* Gum loss;

* Sense of taste can be altered;

* Temporary or permanent drooling;

* Swelling and bleeding.

And the IDA warned that other issues include the transfer of diseases such as hepatitis B, C and D, nerve damage and allergic reaction to metals.