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Cracked Teeth

Tongue Piercing with Needle
©Charles Knox/

I remember vividly a lecture that I had last year in one of my pediatric dentistry classes.  My professor told us a story about how she went down to one of the local piercing parlors and asked if she could take pictures of a tongue piercing.  They let her take some pictures and she showed them to our class.

She commented that if parents actually knew what happens when their kid gets their tongue pierced, there would be a lot less pierced tongues.

I debated about whether or not I should put an image of an actual tongue piercing in this article, but I think it may be too graphic for some people.  If you’d like to see what a tongue looks like as it’s getting pierced with a needle, you can see a photo with an explanation by clicking here.

Keep in mind that there are many risks with piercing your tongue, so I would advise against getting your tongue pierced.  In this article, I’ll simply focus on the process of getting your tongue pierced.

Tongue Piercing Procedure

The Tongue Piercing Procedure

First of all, the person piercing your tongue will use a marker to mark the spot on the taste-bud side of the tongue where the piercing will be.  If you look closely at the photo above, you’ll see a dark blue mark where the ring enters the tongue.

Next, the piercer will hold onto your tongue with some sort of a clamp so that it doesn’t move when it is pierced.  If the tongue moves and the needle goes through the wrong part, it could hit a blood vessel or cause damage to a nerve.

As they are holding onto the tongue, the piercer will stick a thick needle through your tongue without using any anesthetic.  (See a picture of this here – not for the faint of heart!)  Some people say this hurts, others say that as long as you find the right person to pierce your tongue, it shouldn’t hurt.  Since piercers are not licensed medical professionals, they are not permitted to give you any anesthetic to numb your tongue and prevent you from feeling pain.

Then, the piercer will put a long barbell through the hole that was made in the tongue.  Usually the barbell is 18 millimeters (about ¾ inch) long.  The initial barbell needs to be long because your tongue will swell a lot after the piercing.  If a short barbell is used, the tongue could swell around it and trap the barbell inside the tongue.  If this occurs, surgery will be needed to remove the barbell from the tongue.

If your tongue piercing is done in a clean, sanitary environment and doesn’t become infected., the initial 18 mm barbell can be replaced with a shorter barbell.


After your tongue has been pierced, you must leave the barbell in place or the hole can close up.  It can be removed for very brief periods of time without this occurring but there is always a risk.  It’s a good idea to remove any tongue jewelry when you’re playing sports so that you don’t damage your teeth.

Do you have any stories or experiences with tongue piercing?  I’d love to hear about your stories, questions and comments in the comments section below!

Tongue Piercing Licking Lips

Oral piercing is a practice that seems to be gaining popularity in the United States.  The most common places to get a piercing in your mouth are the lips, tongue, cheek, and the uvula (the “hangy-ball” thing in the back of your throat.) Tongue Piercing Can Hurt Your Teeth!People want to get their tongue pierced for a variety of reasons.  One of the biggest reasons is to make them look trendy — people want to fit in, and if they can be seen as cool for getting their tongue pierced, then they’ll go for it. Unfortunately, not many people are aware of the many risks associated with getting your tongue pierced.  I think if people understood the dangers of tongue piercing, fewer piercings would be performed. I’m planning on writing a couple of articles about the risks of tongue piercing.  This first article will focus on ten ways that tongue piercing hurts your mouth and teeth.  The next one will talk about the negative effects that oral piercings have on the rest of your body.

The Risks of Tongue Piercing: 10 Ways Tongue Piercing Hurts Your Mouth and Teeth

1 – Tongue piercing causes chips, cracks, and/or fractures in your teeth. Wearing tongue jewelry can not only damage your teeth, but it can damage expensive dental work that you may have already had done. The effect of tongue jewelry on teeth is especially important when participating in exercise and athletic activities.  When in doubt, take the barbell out!  It is important to note that if you leave out your tongue jewelry for more than a few hours, it may be next to impossible to get the jewelry back in.

Tongue piercings are just one of the many ways you can chip or crack your teeth.  To learn more,read 10 Easy Ways to Chip or Crack Your Teeth.

2 – Tongue piercing causes gum recession, also called localized periodontal disease. If you wear a barbell in your tongue, it can rub up against and irritate the gums on the tongue side of your teeth.  This has led to gum recession in many people who have their tongue pierced.  In older adults, periodontal disease (not cavities) is usually the most common cause of tooth loss. 3 – Tongue piercing can wear down your teeth. Out of habit, many tongue-ring wearers often rub their tongue ring up against their teeth. Over time, this can wear down the enamel. Over time, you could expose dentin or experience increased sensitivity or cavities. If you insist on having a tongue piercing, trying out a shorter barbell may reduce the damage that it inflicts on your mouth — although it would be best to get rid of the tongue jewelry altogether!

Concerned about wearing down your teeth? Learn more about the four ways we wear down our teeth.

4 – Tongue piercing can cause speech impediments. Tongue piercing can make it more difficult to talk.  You use your tongue for making a lot of sounds when you talk.  If you get a tongue ring, it makes it a lot harder to speak correctly. 5 – Tongue piercing can cause nerve damage. An inexperienced piercing parlor worker may inadvertently cause permanent damage to the nerves in your tongue or other areas of the mouth depending on how the tongue is pierced.  The person doing the piercing needs to have a sound knowledge of the anatomy of your tongue.  If you do get your tongue pierced, it’s important to find a reputable, high-quality piercing parlor to cut a hole in your tongue. You probably wouldn’t enjoy having parts of your tongue permanently numb.  Many people hate having their tongue numb for a couple of hours after getting a filling — just imagine how hard it would be to not fully enjoy the taste of your food or constantly have your tongue give you that numb, tingling sensation. 6 – Tongue piercing can cause bad breath. Tongue jewelry is a good place for the plaque in your mouth to live.  It’s harder to brush if you have tongue jewelry.  Also, if you don’t regularly clean your tongue jewelry, it can accumulate bacteria that make your breath smell pretty disgusting! Tongue Piercing Damages Your Mouth! 7 – Tongue piercing can cause a space between your two upper front teeth, also known as a diastema. Although this isn’t very common, it does happen as evidenced by this case report written by orthodontists. 8 – Tongue piercing can cause excessive drooling. Tongue piercing can cause an increase in the amount of saliva you make.  Although saliva is good for the teeth, too much can be a problem.  You probably won’t look too cool with a tongue ring if you leave a puddle of spit everywhere you go! 9 – The metal tongue jewelry can cause a metal hypersensitivity reaction. You could end up being allergic to the metal in your tongue jewelry. If you were excited about having metal tongue jewelry and then end up having to wear a plastic barbell, you may be disappointed. 10 – Tongue piercing can cause pain and infection. The tongue piercing itself could cause pain and other complications.  Many people who have had their tongue pierced say that it was quite painful.  Here’s one story about how much tongue piercing hurts from Yahoo! Answers. You might get an infection depending on how sanitary the piercing parlor is. Most people have some degree of swelling after their tongue piercing. If you have a low tolerance for pain, you may want to reconsider.

More Reading on the Negative Effects of Tongue Piercing

I read a LOT of great articles while researching for this post.  Here are a couple you might be interested in:


Keep in mind that of all of the negative effects listed above, the most common are damaging a tooth and causing gum recession. If you’re thinking about getting your tongue pierced, please re-think your decision.  You may look cool around some of your friends, but the damage that tongue piercing does to your mouth isn’t worth it. Although I didn’t mention this above, because it’s not a huge consequence of tongue piercing, think about how much you love tasting your food —  especially with Thanksgiving tomorrow.  Do you really want to damage some of your valuable taste buds by getting your tongue pierced? For all of the Americans reading this, have a great Thanksgiving day tomorrow!  If you have any questions or comments about tongue piercing and oral health, please leave them in the comments section below.

Easy Ways to Crack or Chip Your Teeth

Many people end up cracking or chipping their teeth at some point in their lives. A majority of cracked and chipped teeth injuries are preventable.

Tongue Rings Can Crack Your TeethTo illustrate that point, I’ve come up with 10 easy ways that you can crack and chip your teeth.  A lot of the ways don’t even involve doing anything.

Here’s a tip: If you want to keep your teeth crack and chip free, don’t do anything on the list below!

10 Easy Ways to Crack or Chip Your Teeth

1 – Get your tongue pierced and wear a hard metal object in it.  The hard metal will constantly bump up against your teeth and can chip and/or cause cracks.  A major cause of chips in front teeth is from tongue barbells.

2 – Don’t wear a protective athletic mouth guard when playing sports.  This one’s pretty easy, since it involves doing nothing.  Just don’t go to your dentist and get a custom mouthguard made, and you’ll be at a much higher risk for getting a cracked or chipped tooth.

That’s not all mouth guards do!  Here’s six reasons to wear an athletic mouthguard.

3 – Chew on ice or any other hard object.  To read more about the damage that chewing on ice does to your teeth, read How Chewing on Ice Affects Your Teeth.

Another common culprit of cracked teeth is popcorn kernels.  For some reason, people like to finish the whole bag of popcorn, and if some kernels didn’t pop like they were supposed to, they feel like they need to get eaten too.  If your popcorn bowl looks like the one below when you’re done, then congratulations!

Cracked Teeth Can Occur from Chewing Unpopped Popcorn Kernels

4 – Use your teeth as tools – to open things, use them as scissors to cut tape or cut tags off of new clothes.  Pretty much any way you use your teeth as tools, you will be putting excessive wear on them that could cause small cracks.

5 – Grind your teeth and don’t do anything about it.  If you grind your teeth, you could end up cracking them or even wearing your teeth down to almost nothing.  If you think that you may be grinding your teeth while you sleep, it’s best to talk to your dentist about it.  Most dentists will make an appliance you can wear to help stop teeth grinding.

6 – Don’t brush, make sure you get a big cavity, then go to your dentist and have a really big filling put in your tooth.  By losing so much tooth structure to tooth decay, it will be a lot easier to get your tooth to crack.

7 – Don’t get braces.  By not having the teeth in proper alignment, it is easier to put stresses on them when you bite, which could lead to worn down teeth, or cracking in more extreme circumstances.

8 – Clench your teeth often.  A lot of people clench their teeth when they’re stressed out.  Well, clenching can also stress out your teeth!  That’s alright if you want to crack or chip your teeth, but if you want to keep your teeth nice and healthy for a lifetime, try to stop clenching.

9 – Keep on getting older.  After a lifetime of wear, teeth can get pretty worn down and cracked.  Some experts believe that as you get older, your teeth become more brittle, which makes them more prone to cracking.

10 – Eat rocks or bones.  It does happen.  A lot of people find rocks in a can of re-fried beans or don’t sort out rocks from dried beans.  Another culprit is finding a bone in a fast food hamburger or chicken sandwich.  When you unexpectedly bite into something hard with a lot of force, it can easily crack or chip a tooth.


Ideally, you should try to not do anything on the above list.  Alright…  Unless you can live forever like the Tuck family in Tuck Everlasting(4th grade reading assignment), you probably can’t avoid #9.  #10 is also pretty hard to avoid, but the rest of the list involves choices that we make that can wear down our teeth over time.

Do you have any questions or comments about cracked or chipped teeth?  Leave them in the comments section below!  Thanks for reading!

Chewing Ice Cubes Hurts Teeth

Have you ever eaten all of your dinner, drank all of your water, and then flirted with the last remaining edible item on the table – the ice in the bottom of your glass?  If so, you’re not alone.  Many people chew on ice cubes for a variety of different reasons.

You may think this habit is relatively harmless since ice is made of water.  After all, it’s not like you are sucking on a piece of sugary candy, right?  Well, the impact of ice-chewing on your teeth is less than desirable.  Here’s why:

4 Reasons Why Chewing Ice Cubes Hurts Your Teeth

Chewing Ice Cubes Can Crack Your Teeth!

1 – Chewing ice puts an enormous amount of pressure on your teeth. While the dentin in your teeth is relatively flexible, the enamel is very hard and doesn’t flex much.  Chewing ice can wear down the enamel and even chip or fracture pieces of the enamel off of your teeth.

Not sure what enamel and dentin are?  Read this article about the anatomy of a tooth.

2 – Chewing ice causes a repetitive hot/cold cycle in your mouth. This can cause microcracks in your enamel over time.  Also, tooth enamel expands at a different rate than fillings.  If you have a white filling, it will expand and contract much faster than the tooth when exposed to hot and cold temperatures.  This could lead to a breakdown of the seal at the tooth/filling interface and may shorten the life of your filling.

3 – If you have braces, the ice could damage them.  It might break off a bracket or move a wire, making it ineffective at doing its job of bringing your teeth into proper alignment.

4 – It can damage your gums. Ice chunks are hard and can be pretty sharp.  Although I don’t know of any studies to back this up, it would seem that if you are constantly chewing ice and pressing down on the gums, you could cause injury to your gums and perhaps even cause gum recession.  For example, tongue rings press on the surface of your teeth closest to your tongue and have been shown to cause gum recession in these areas.

Why Do You Want to Chew Ice Cubes?

Try to figure out what is causing you to chew ice cubes in the first place.  It could be a sign of stress or a more serious medical condition, such as iron-deficiency anemia.  Perhaps a multi-vitamin with iron is all you need to help you stop your habit.

More than likely, though, you are just chewing on ice because you are bored and still sitting at the table after you have finished your food.  There are also some people who just like chewing ice.  I loved chewing ice cubes when I was a kid, and I’m pretty sure there’s nothing terribly wrong with me…!

Healthier Replacement Habits

Once you find out why you’re chewing ice, you can try to do something to treat the cause of your ice chewing habit.  For example, if stress or social anxiety causes you to chew ice, learn some new techniques to handle these feelings differently.

If you just like chewing ice because of the crunchy noise or the satisfying feeling of chewing through something hard, you can try eating something crunchy, like carrots or apples.


Ice Cube

If you can, it is a lot better to simply suck on ice cubes rather than chew them.  Although this still can cause extremely cold temperatures in your mouth which could shorten the life of your fillings, it is much better to suck on ice than it is to chew on it.

Are you an ice chewer?  Have you ever chipped or cracked your tooth by chewing on something?  If you have any experiences to share or questions, please leave them below in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Using Teeth as Tools

This past weekend I went shopping with my wife and got a couple of new shirts.  The tags were stuck onto the shirts with a thin plastic string.  I usually rip them off, but only the tag came off.  With no scissors nearby, I almost used my teeth to get the rest off.  Luckily, I caught myself and was able to remove the annoying plastic string without using my teeth.

Many people damage their teeth by using them inappropriately.  Here’s a few things that you should avoid doing with your teeth in order to keep them as healthy as possible:

Don’t Use Your Teeth To Open Things

Swiss Army KnifeWhether it’s a beer bottle, candy bar, or one of those waterproof FedEx envelopes – resist the urge to use your teeth to help you open it.  Your teeth were not meant to open these things!  Using your teeth on foreign objects, especially bottle caps, can crack them, chip them, or cause malocclusion (poor jaw alignment) by wearing down your teeth unevenly.  Malocclusion can eventually lead to a type of jaw pain called temporomandibular disorder (TMD, commonly known as TMJ.)

Don’t Use Your Teeth As Scissors or Wire Cutters

Like I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I was tempted to use my teeth to cut a plastic tie.  While my teeth are poorly suited for this task, scissors are the perfect tool for such tasks.  I was simply too lazy to go and find a pair.

Do not Use Your Teeth as ScissorsAnother one of my bad habits is using my teeth to cut clear packing tape when the packing tape doesn’t come with a built-in cutter.  I’ve made an effort recently to find scissors when using this type of tape, but I still catch myself using my teeth occasionally.

Believe it or not, some people even use their teeth on wire.   As a kid, I often used wires, batteries, light bulbs, and small electric motors to build fun, not-very-useful contraptions.  The easiest way to remove the insulation from the copper wiring was to bite on it with my two front teeth.  I got to the point where I could do it very efficiently.  Luckily, my dad caught me doing this one day and told me I would ruin my teeth if I persisted.  He was right!  Fortunately, no permanent damage occurred and I started using wire cutters.

Don’t Use Your Teeth as a Third Hand

Try not to Use Your Teeth as a Third HandMy oral pathology teacher once showed us a picture of an elderly woman that had used her front teeth to hold pins while she was knitting and sewing.  Over time, she had worn small holes in her teeth where the pins were placed.  Every time she smiled, very small holes were visible on the bottom of her upper teeth.  A similar thing can happen when construction workers hold nails in their teeth.

Using your teeth to hold things can damage your teeth in the long run.  Also, if you had to hiccup or yawn, holding objects with your teeth  might cause you to choke.

Don’t Use Your Teeth To Chew On Foreign Objects

When I was in third grade, I noticed that lots of the cool kids were chewing on their pencils.  Being a conformist, I started chewing on my pens and pencils.  Sometimes during boring assignments, my classmates and I would compare our writing utensils to see who had inflicted the most damage with their teeth.

Similarly, many children get in the habit of biting their fingernails.  If they continue, it can damage their permanent teeth.

Although addicting, stress-relieving, and sometimes “cool”, biting on foreign objects can weaken or crack your teeth, chip them, and cause you to lose tooth structure.

Don’t Use Your Teeth as a Nut Cracker or Seafood Opener


Don’t use your teeth to crack open nuts.  As good as the nut tastes, you need to use something other than your teeth to crack the shell.  A nutcracker, perhaps?

Over time, the shell will act like sandpaper on your teeth, sanding away bits of enamel each time you open a nut.  If you do this regularly you will eventually be able to visibly see where you’ve worn away your teeth.

Using Teeth To Open Seafood
We can only hope that this boy didn’t open that shell with his teeth!

Another common misuse of teeth occurs when eating seafood.  In many places, seafood is served in the shell.  Although it may seem natural to use your teeth to remove the shell, the shells are often quite hard and could easily damage your teeth.


Teeth serve many functions.  They were designed to chew food, support our lips and cheeks structurally, and help us speak properly.  A healthy set of teeth also adds to your overall appearance and gives you an attractive smile.

If you want your teeth to function properly, you have to protect and take care of them.  As long as you use your teeth for their intended purpose, and don’t abuse them, you will be able to keep your teeth working well for a long time.