Tongue rings may seem like a harmless sign of self-expression to your teen, but they can have severe consequences. Infection is the most serious risk because millions of breeding bacteria are always present in the mouth, as well as additional germs that are introduced when handling the jewelry.

Other complications include a swollen tongue, which can block the airway, excessive drooling and nerve damage, which could lead to permanent numbness in the tongue. Oral piercings are also risk factors for the transmission of diseases like HIV, herpes and hepatitis. And teeth and gums are often damaged by the jewelry.

The bottom line: Most dentists discourage oral piercings, according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). If your teen insists, make sure she speaks with a dentist to understand the risks involved.