It’s every parent’s nightmare their child will someday announce in matter of fact fashion “Mom, I’ve decided I’m getting a tattoo”…or worse,” I’m getting my body pierced”. At this point you can indignantly assert hell will freeze over first thereby guaranteeing your arrival at the precipice of the slippery slope of defiance including one of their friends forging your signature at the tattoo parlour or you can exercise your crafty parenting abilities and reply: “I’m interested in these new trends so I did a little reading.” Tactic makes you sound cool and now they’re hooked to know your opinion. You can’t scare them with HIV and hepatitis risks. Those tactics didn’t work with the promiscuity issue and most tattoo parlours follow public health guidelines to the letter for their own litigation risk reasons. The pensive parent expresses their opposition citing the permanence of the procedure and the fact removal is an expensive cosmetic surgery not covered by the health plan. The dyes used are very toxic to human tissue and are capable of initiating severe tissue reactions and scarring. It’s a trend today for young females to acquire elaborate lower back pictorals or quotations and the tattoo artist rarely informs the client these preclude epidural anaesthetic for pregnancy delivery because the epidural needle would transmit the dye in to the spinal space with disastrous results from paralysis to death by toxic reaction in the nervous system.

Body piercings involve even bigger risks. Infection and scarring at insertion sites are very common. Beach side, we’ve all seen those unsightly abdominal incision scars on people who shouldn’t be wearing a bikini. Same reaction is a frequent response to piercings. It’s rarely known in advance who the scar formers might be. The bête noir for me as an emergency room physician were the facial and oral piercings. Severe pain, bleeding, infections and scarring are too common. The human mouth is a bug jungle. Add in all the food debris that accumulates daily and you have a recipe for significant oral infection and since the mouth is connected to the airway and the digestive tract, it becomes more than a local issue. There’s also the real occurrence of a loosened tab being aspirated in to the lung.  If the nerve supply to the cheek or tongue is compromised, permanent pain or numbness is a possibility. Oral piercings can even impair speech.  Dentists detest oral piercings for some very practical reasons. Many of us already have jaw joint problems from stress and grinding our teeth at night and clenching during the day. Oral piercings chip teeth while you sleep, crack teeth when you grind and contribute to progressive gum disease. There’s even a serious heart condition called endocarditis. About two percent of us have a benign congenital heart syndrome consisting of a “floppy valve” Oral piercings have become a leading source of the blood stream infection that leads to bacteria vegetations on the walls of the heart valves and heart chambers.

As parents and grandparents we need to present cogent factual material why NOT getting on a bandwagon is the better choice but if that receives a skeptical response, refer them to the internet. It’s their home turf but this time the factual information is overwhelmingly on your side. As a final debate point, suggest they set aside a substantial portion of their allowance. Restorative oral dentistry and cosmetic surgery don’t come cheap.

Written By: Dr. David Carll

Providing a fresh perspective for Hamilton and Burlington

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