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Problematic piercing

Angelle Delgado (The Reveille via U-WIRE)/BATON ROUGE, La. -- Students going off to college feel a sense of freedom, and some choose to test that freedom by getting their tongues pierced.

However, the problems that can develop from getting a tongue ring worry some people.

"I thought getting a tongue ring was cool," said Brandon Lagarde, an accounting senior. "No one expected me to get one."

During his sophomore year, Lagarde had his tongue pierced while on Spring Break and does not recall the conditions of the studio that pierced him.

Unfortunately, most states do not have health codes for piercers, said Walter Pichon, sanitation program manager for the Department of Health and Hospitals.

"There are about eight other states that have health requirements [for piercing and tatoo studios]," Pichon said.

Soon, Louisiana will be added to that list to ensure piercers are sterile.

"Health inspections should start up next month," Pichon said.

Inspectors will assure studios are up to code and safe.

Pichon said he believes it is necessary to create health codes for piercers to stop transfers of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.

Health codes will require piercers to clean all areas with germicide, sterilize all equipment and hand out "after-care" notices, Pichon said.

"Autoclave sterilization is accepted and approved by the National Center for Disease Control and is the only method of sterilization that is acceptable to reputable body piercers," according to the owner of Under the Surface, a local piercing studio that has been in Baton Rouge for six years.

The autoclave machine sterilizes piercing equipment with steam and pressure, killing bacteria, said Emily Tessier, owner and senior piercer at Under the Surface.

Until health codes go into effect, students should ask piercers how they sterilize their equipment, Tessier said.

Dr. James Cade, a professor of oral medicine at the LSU School of Dentistry, said that students should take precautions after they get their tongue pierced to avoid complications.

"[Tongue rings] can cause teeth fractures and receding gums," Cade said.

Downsizing the barbells of the tongue ring can minimize wearing of the enamel on teeth, Tessier said.

"It keeps you from playing with it or biting it when you eat," Tessier said.

Also, plaque can accumulate around the bottom ball of the tongue ring, causing bad breath and infection, Cade said.

Many people do not know what to do if this occurs.

"I never had too many problems [with my tongue ring], but it smelled really bad so I finally just took it out," Lagarde said.

Cade suggests taking the tongue ring out once a week and cleaning it with a toothbrush to avoid some stinky problems, he said.

During the healing process, many piercers recommend rinsing with Listerine.

However, over-using antiseptics like Listerine can cause problems.

"Using too much full strength Listerine can dry out your tongue, cause white bumps and cause it to peal," Tessier said.

"It can cause a viral infection, which is basically a yeast infection in your mouth," she said.

Again, not knowing how to clean the inside of the mouth after getting pierced poses a concern for those with tongue rings.

"I am afraid I will pass bacteria from my tongue ring when having oral sex or even kissing [my girlfriend]," one student said.

Cade said Listerine should be used no more than two times a day, and one can use salt water to rinse out the mouth after eating, smoking or drinking.

"As long as you follow directions, things will be fine," said Robert Beauregard, a mechanical engineering senior who got his tongue pierced twice.

Though students have the freedom to pierce any body part they wish, no one knows how their parents will react.

"My mom use to make fun of me, so I took [my tongue ring] out," Beauregard said.

No matter the consequences, the tongue ring trend does not seem to be fading away, and knowing how to treat the piercing can save people some regrets.

(c) 2001 The Reveille via U-WIRE

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