The Association of Professional Piercers would like to present a number of facts in order that consumers, health care workers, and other concerned parties may properly educate themselves about oral piercing before making any decisions or judgments. A well-informed and discerning consumer is subject to far fewer dangers than one with incomplete or inaccurate information.
When properly performed, the piercing procedure itself takes only a few seconds, and involves minimal discomfort and often no blood. Healing is ordinarily rapid and is commonly uneventful.
Most of the concerns about oral piercings centre on one of three areas:
These potential hazards are generally easily controlled when the following steps are taken.
To reduce risks of an unsafe procedure, you must first select the right piercer, one who:
See CHOOSING A PIERCER or download the PDF of the brochure for additional details and information.
The potential for structural damage from tongue and oral piercing can be dramatically reduced by wearing appropriate jewellery. Complications may result if the jewellery is inappropriately sized, improperly placed, or poorly manufactured. Things to consider:
Proper placement is absolutely critical to the health and comfort of the piercee.
Traditional placement for a tongue piercing:
Along the midline of the tongue, essentially in the centre of the mouth;
Often approximately 3/4" or so back from the tip of the tongue;
Commonly placed with the top a little further back than the bottom (This allows the top of the jewellery to lean slightly back, away from the teeth, and towards the higher part of the upper palate where there is more room in the mouth);
Usually placed just in front of the attachment of the lingual frenulum (web under the tongue).
Traditional placement for lip or cheek piercings:
The risk of exposure to infection can be controlled during the piercing procedure by the use of sterile tools, jewellery and needle, and a thorough understanding and implementation of aseptic technique. Entirely vital for avoiding infection during healing is the cooperation of the piercee in caring for the piercing properly.
See ORAL PIERCINGS AFTERCARE or download the PDF brochure for detailed care information.
Most piercees report little or no bleeding and a minimum of swelling for a few days when the piercing is performed properly and approved care guidelines are followed.
Although often cited, this concern may not be as valid as expected. The extremely short healing time of the average oral piercing provides a much smaller window of opportunity for exposure to external infection than do many other common piercings. For instance, a tongue piercing usually heals in 4 6 weeks, compared to 6 9 months or longer for a navel piercing.
As the main 'entry portal' for any material entering the body, the oral cavity is exposed to a variety of toxins, bacteria, and other noxious substances on a near-constant basis. Drinking or eating anything contaminated with disease-causing microbes can potentially cause illness and infection. Breathing air that contains airborne pathogens may lead to other types of systemic disease. Why then are we relatively healthy despite this continual microbial assault? The answer lies in the design of the oral cavity and its defensive strategies.
Salvia contains numerous antimicrobial factors that directly attack and deactivate harmful microbes. Among them:
Because saliva is produced only within the oral cavity, the mouth is at a distinct advantage over other parts of the body when it comes to warding off infection. Oral mucosa has an extremely high 'turnover rate' which makes it one of the fastest healing sites in the body. This fast turnover rate allows oral mucosa to maintain its structural integrity by a system of continuous cell renewal in which cells are produced by cell division, migrate to the surface of the tissue, and replace those cells which are shed. Cellular turnover rates for oral mucosa of the cheek is 25 days compared to 52-75 days for skin.
Because the head and neck region houses a highly concentrated system of veins, arteries and lymph vessels allowing for rapid transportation of these anti-infective agents, infectious agents can be attacked and dealt with in a swift manner.
When a piercing in the oral cavity is performed, infection rates are negligible when sterile equipment, proper aseptic protocol and appropriate jewellery selection are combined with conscientious aftercare. This requires the education of both the piercer and the client, and with cooperation can ensure a safe and successful experience.
Unsafe, unethical, and uneducated piercers thrive in areas where complete, accurate information is not made available to both the general public and those who seek to protect them. Making oral piercings illegal forces consumers who still seek them to patronize unregulated, underground establishments. Only by supporting the dissemination of accurate information and the efforts of conscientious professionals can the risks of piercing truly be controlled.
To disparage the efforts of a burgeoning profession without full and appropriate information is not an accurate or helpful response. Since many individuals still desire oral piercings and intend to get them, it is far more constructive to provide accurate information and specific guidelines on safe piercing procedure and how to choose a practitioner.
The APP is a non-profit organization dedicated to health, education and safety of piercers and the public. We are a group of committed professionals who uphold an extremely high standard of safety and hygiene. We support the development of appropriate regulations and standards to ensure the improvement of our art form and the continued safety of our clientele.
For more information please contact the Association of Professional Piercers (APP)
1. Department of Cariology, Institute of Dentistry, University of Turku (Finland): Salivary peroxidase systems and lysozyme in defence against cariogenic microorganisms. Lenager-Lumikari (1992)
2. Ten Cate AR: Oral histology: Development, structure, and function (2nd ed). C.V. Mosby Company (St. Louis). 1985
3. Staines N, Brostoff J and James K: Introducing immunology (2nd ed). C.V. Mosby Company (St. Louis). 1994.