The latest  comes courtesy of the Australian Dental Journal: a survey of dental and periodontal conditions near the sites of 110 lip and 51 tongue piercings sported by 110 individuals. Overall, the researchers found more tooth chipping/cracking and abnormal enamel wear in those with pierced tongues, which makes sense when you consider how people tend to “play” with the ornament. Gum problems were an issue for all, with those wearing hardware the longest showing greater recession, clinical attachment loss  and deeper pocketing than others. One thing that did make a difference: “height closure and stem length of tongue ornaments” had a pronounced effect on gum recession.
Yes, some of this damage can be repaired or reversed, but at a high cost (restorative dentistry and periodontal therapy aren’t cheap). And if you keep wearing the same kind of hardware and playing with it in the same way, you’re bound to cause the same kind of damage all over again. Over time, repeated repairs – “too much dentistry” – can kill a tooth.
Obviously, body modification is a personal choice. But no choice is much of a choice unless you’re aware of both risks and benefits.
For an interesting and useful discussion of some of the energetic issues with piercings, see this thread on a discussion board about Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Image by me and the sysop, via Flickr