#TeenTalk: Like You Need Another Hole in Your Head

As a mother of teens, I try to put a positive spin on my parenting challenges whenever possible. Sometimes it’s easy. With a little imagination, incorporating words like “twerk” and “turnt up” into my vocabulary can be seen as an intellectual exercise, a prophylactic against early onset dementia, for example. Other times, it can be downright difficult. Looking for the silver lining in my son’s illegal, underage tattoo(s!) a few years back really stretched my creative limits.

I have found that a little self-delusion can go a long way toward preserving my sanity as a parent. Life with teenagers is one big learning experience. Along these educational lines, in recent years, I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about piercings. While perforations in my offspring are currently limited to ears and a couple of nostrils, a status quo I seek to maintain, there’s no time like the present to tackle a new topic.

Body piercing in Oklahoma is regulated by the State Department of Health. The written consent and physical presence of a minor’s parent or guardian is required before that minor “is allowed to receive a body piercing procedure.”

If your teen is contemplating a piercing, there are a number of issues to consider. Aesthetic preferences aside, there are some risks associated with piercings. For one thing, body jewelry and medical procedures don’t always mix. Because jewelry in and around the mouth can pose a choking hazard, dentists and oral surgeons require it to be removed before any work is done. Similarly, all body jewelry should be removed before surgery to avoid choking on it during anesthesia and to avoid the small risk of an inadvertent burn caused by an electrocautery tool interacting with the jewelry. During Magnetic Resonance Imaging, (MRIs), body jewelry made from certain materials may move or even be displaced, and jewelry made from conductive material can heat up enough to cause burns. Obviously, these risks can be eliminated if the body jewelry is easily removed. However, dermal anchors, which are embedded under the skin through a single hole, aren’t readily extracted.

Infection is also a risk. According to Tulsa dentist Jack Hudspeth, piercings in or near the mouth can be particularly problematic “because of the predominance of bacteria in the mouth…The oral cavity is rampant with organisms.” In addition, he noted that orthodontic problems might develop when a patient manipulates a tongue piercing in a way that exerts pressure on the teeth, causing them to move.

From a practical standpoint, school dress codes may prohibit or limit body piercings. Bishop Kelly High School’s Dress Code states that “body piercing…should not be visible,” while Tulsa Public Schools’ Policy Manual limits “visible pierced jewelry” to the ear, and prohibits “tongue rings and studs.”

Recently I spoke with Jonathan Hood, owner of Brookside Tattoo & Piercing at 33rd & S. Peoria. Hood has been piercing for 15 years, and he’s been in his current location for eight. Other than earlobes, Hood won’t pierce minors under the age of 15, a policy he arrived at after consultation with a few pediatricians. In addition, Hood chooses not to do “extreme” facial piercings such as cheek piercings or a “bridge” (a piercing through the skin on the bridge of the nose) on patrons younger than 18.

“It’s something not a lot of schools will let them get away with for one,” he explained. “And you just can’t change that out the next day to a clear retainer to hide it, so it causes a lot more problems doing that than it would to just say, ‘listen, you need to wait. ‘”

Hood notes that while piercings are much more acceptable than they were a decade ago, “you’re still going to get a lot of judgmental people,” and he wants his clients to consider this. “We talk to parents and kids about it,” he said. “We talk about it a lot with our customers…I think it’s important that a parent does talk to the kid about it, and that the kid actually listens.” While kids may not always take their parent’s word for it, “they’re usually pretty receptive to us. If somebody with tattooed eyebrows is saying ‘hey be careful about that,’ they’re like ‘oh, wow, maybe my parents are right,’” he laughed.

Hood advises going to a clean, licensed and inspected studio for piercings. “You can tell a lot about tattoo and piercing shops as soon as you walk in the door.”

They should be willing to answer any questions and explain how they sterilize and test their equipment. If they aren’t, Hood encourages you to head straight back out the door.

Pause before you pierce. Help your minor child weigh the pros and cons, and acknowledge the possible health and social implications. If you decide to proceed, do your research and choose a reputable, licensed shop. For more information, visit the websites of the Department of Health and the Association of Professional Piercers.

JulieJulie Wenger Watson is a freelance writer who’s worked in all aspects of music promotion. She’s also Co-Director of “Live From Cain’s,” a public radio show pilot.

Categories: Tweens & Teens