The BBC recently reported on a 22-year-old man who died from multiple abscesses in his brain related to complications arising from his recent tongue piercing. The journal Archives of Neurology issued a report on the death of the young Israeli man and encouraged consumers to be aware of the dangers involved with such a piercing. A Dental Health Site article published on February 10 of this year gives a list of seven common oral hazards associated with tongue piercings.
Of the seven risks mentioned on the site, infection and death, blood loss and nerve damage, and Hepatitis or HIV infection are among the more serious dangers associated with oral piercing. Another health website, YgoY, reported on the possibly fatal dangers of tongue piercing back in December of 2007. In addition to mentioning the possibility of serious brain infection, the YgoY article also noted the potential for heart valve damage, blood poisoning, and speech impediments.
The BBC article discussed the more common dangers of tongue piercing, including oral infections, chipped teeth, recession of gum lines, and problems with uncontrolled bleeding. Professional piercers pointed out that using proper procedures and maintaining hygienic after-care protocols rarely lead to any complications, much less death from brain abscesses and infections.
Tongue piercing remains both widely popular and controversial. The BBC article named Mel B of the Spice Girls and Princess Anna’s daughter Zara Phillips among the celebrities with tongue piercings.
The scientific advisor to the British Dental Association, professor Damien Walmsley, told theBBC News, ‘Piercing of oral sites also carries with it a risk of infection. The clear message is that oral piercing is ill advised and should be avoided.’ The Dental Health Site article also recommended caution and advised avoidance of tongue piercing altogether.
While the death of the Israeli man from brain abscesses due to complications with his tongue piercing is a rare case, the severity of it may make many consumers more cautious about getting an oral piercing. For many, the risk of brain damage and death may be enough to scare them away from the cosmetic procedure, while for others, the piercing will still be worth the risk.