You may love your body piercings, but they’re more harmful than they appear. When it comes to piercing your tongue, lips, or cheek, are the health risks worth it?

Infections. Our mouths contain a huge amount of bacteria, making it an ideal place for infections. It’s also possible for a piercing to make your tongue swell, which can potentially block your airway.

Damage to teeth and gums. Not only can metal oral jewelry injure lead to cracked, scratched, or sensitive teeth, it can cause your gums to recede, which leaves the root of your tooth more vulnerable to decay.

Nerve damage. After getting an oral piercing you may experience a numb tongue. While this is usually temporary, it can become permanent. This injured nerve may affect your sense of taste and how you move your mouth.

Interference with normal oral functions. Jewelry in your mouth can cause excessive saliva flow, which can impede your ability to pronounce words correctly. It can also become difficult to chew and swallow.

Do you have an oral piercing? Make sure you’re seeing your dentist regularly to keep the site clean. And contact your dentist or physician immediately if you notice any signs of infection — swelling, pain, fever, chills.