The tongue is one area of the body that we tend to take for granted, but many of life’s pleasures come from its presence. It helps us taste fantastic cuisine, speak beautiful words, bring pleasure to our partner, and it shapes the sound and tone of our voice. What better way to draw attention to and celebrate it than with a tongue piercing?
The tongue is made up of many independent muscles in order to achieve speech. Because of this, you must be careful about placement. Choose a reputable piercer who will be able to properly place the tongue piercing in a way that won’t affect the way you talk.
In spite of the intricacies of the tongue, a tongue piercing is a fairly low-risk procedure. However, there are certain things that you must consider before getting your tongue pierced, like oral hygiene, the safety of your teeth, and the fact that your speech will likely be affected for at least the first few weeks while you get used to your new piercing.
Here’s everything that you need to know about the tongue piercing.
How much does the tongue piercing hurt?
The tongue may seem like it would be sensitive, but most report relatively low piercing pain. With an experienced piercer, you will feel a pinch, but they’ll conduct the procedure quickly, so it will be fast.
The real pain comes in the days immediately afterward. Your tongue is an essential aspect of your daily existence, so it’s nearly impossible to give it a day off. Since your healing tongue will move quite a bit, it will lead to more healing pain and swelling. The good news? Tongues heal crazy fast, so this portion of the healing process won’t last long.
If your tongue piercing is swollen the first few days after piercing, don’t worry; it’s a natural part of the healing process. However, if your tongue remains swollen for some time or if it becomes swollen after healing, you should visit a medical professional.
Tongue piercing healing process
The tongue piercing usually heals in 4 - 6 weeks. The fast healing time makes it an easier piercing when it comes to aftercare, but it can also come at a cost; even old tongue piercings can close in a matter of hours without jewelry. Therefore, if you want to keep your piercing, you must keep your jewelry in.
Although the actual healing process is fairly simple, there are tons of outside influences that can make tongue piercing healing quite painful. Here’s what you need to know for aftercare during healing and beyond.
Your tongue is exposed to the bacteria that your saliva harbors, food, drinks, and anything else you put on or near your mouth. Beyond rinsing every day, you need to keep extra care to keep things out of your mouth that shouldn’t be there. (We’re looking at you, nail biters.) Here are some quick tongue piercing aftercare tips.
Conduct a sea salt mouth rinse 2 - 3 times daily. The power of salt to heal is one of Mother Nature’s natural wonders. Simply mix one cup of warm purified water with ¼ teaspoon of non-iodized salt and swish it in your mouth for a couple of minutes, making sure that the liquid fully cleanses the tongue piercing jewelry. If you prefer saline piercing aftercare products, these are fine, too. Just make sure that the solution contains nothing else than sterile water and sodium chloride.
Eat soft food at the beginning of healing.Your tongue will be quite sore, so you might not even be able to handle anything that requires chewing. However, you should opt for soft foods, regardless. Before you get used to your jewelry, you’ll run the risk of chomping on it and breaking your teeth, especially since your starter jewelry will be larger to accommodate swelling. As you get used to the new piercing, start with soft foods while you relearn how to chew. You should also avoid spicy or acidic food. Not only will this type of food be irritating to your piercing, but it will cause some sharp pain.
Keep a toothbrush and a sea salt mouthwash with you. After every meal, you need to make sure that you cleanse the piercing of any lingering food debris. Bring along a toothbrush, toothpaste, and alcohol-free mouthwash so that you can quickly clean your mouth after your meals. Brushing your teeth in a public place can be awkward, so in later days of healing, a quick rinse will be fine. But, in the first days, it’s better to play it safe and fully clean your mouth after every meal. Be careful not to brush the piercing itself; you can keep it clean with saltwater mouthwash instead.
Avoid alcohol or cigarettes. As your tongue piercing heals, you need to avoid substances that will irritate it. This includes alcohol and cigarettes. If you must drink alcohol, stick to beverages like beer and wine rather than hard liquor, which will be more irritating to your piercing. As for cigarettes, do your best to minimize use while your piercing is healing. If you must smoke, rinse out your mouth after every smoke break, and keep an eye out for any adverse side effects.
No oral sex or french kissing. You must keep any foreign substance away from your tongue piercing during healing, and that means your partner. For the 4 - 6 weeks of healing, keep your lips closed during kissing or other activities, and rinse your mouth afterward to cleanse it of any lingering bacteria.
Tongue piercing infections (and more common complications)
Although infections are one the greatest fears when it comes to healing a new piercing, they’re actually quite rare. You have to really try in order to get your piercing to the point where it’s infected. If you’re cleaning it every day, brushing your teeth, and rinsing out any food debris, then there’s no reason why you should develop a tongue piercing infection.
The reason why people think piercing infections are so common is because natural healing often looks like the early stages of an infection. In the first few days after getting a piercing, you’ll see some light bleeding, swelling of the tongue, throbbing pain, and you might even see some clear discharge and whiteness around the piercing site. This is all normal and nothing to worry about.
A tongue piercing infection will usually include green/grey discharge, extreme pain, and extreme, persistent swelling. When you have a tongue piercing infection, the signs will be very clear, and you won’t wonder about them. However, when in doubt, you should always seek a professional opinion just in case.
While you may be concerned about piercing infections, you should watch out for these other tongue piercing complications, too.
Tongue piercing rejection usually occurs after a trauma to the piercing site or if you were pierced incorrectly. You can tell that a piercing is rejecting when it has moved from its original piercing site and/or if the piercing hole starts getting larger.
Tongue piercing scarring is unlikely, but it can occur after a trauma or if you ignore piercing rejection. This will usually look like a white, raised ring around the tongue piercing on either the top or bottom of the tongue. While many people are concerned about keloids on their tongue piercing, this type of scarring is actually incredibly rare (it only affects around 10% of the worldwide population), and if you’ve never experienced keloids before, then it’s almost guaranteed that you won’t grow a keloid on your tongue piercing.
Breaking your teeth is actually quite common in the first few days after getting a tongue piercing. The starter tongue piercing barbell will be quite long in order to accommodate swelling. This also means that it can easily be chomped upon. Once swelling has gone down, visit your piercer as soon as possible to get fitted with a smaller barbell, and chew slowly while you get used to the new jewelry.
When can I change my tongue piercing?
As with any piercing, you need to make sure that your tongue piercing has fully healed before changing the jewelry on your own. It’s best to have a piercer confirm that healing is complete. Your piercing can appear healed on the outside and still have some healing to do in the interior. If you change the jewelry on your own before the piercing has fully healed, you run the risk of damaging the piercing and prolonging healing.
If your piercing hasn’t fully healed, but you’re super keen on updating your jewelry, visit your piercer, and they may be able to change your jewelry for you in the proper manner.
Tongue piercing jewelry styles
Although laymen may refer to tongue piercing jewelry as “tongue rings,” that verbiage is incorrect. Tongue piercing jewelry is actually a straight barbell: a piece of jewelry with a long bar with two beads on either end. To insert the jewelry, one of the ends is unscrewed, and the bar is slipped through the piercing hole and secured into place by screwing the bead end back into place.
The length of the barbell will depend upon your anatomy. It needs to be long enough that the bead ends don’t press against the piercing holes and short enough that you don’t accidentally chomp on it. Your piercer will be able to help you figure out the proper length.
Gauge size will depend upon the size of the needle with which you were pierced. Most are pierced at a 14G, but some may opt for the larger 12G.
Why shouldn’t I get a tongue piercing?
If your tongue is too short or you can’t stick your tongue out very far, you won’t be able to get your tongue pierced. The piercer will let you know if you’re unsure.
If the webbing beneath the tongue is too long, your tongue won’t offer a proper place for piercing.
In any piercing around the mouth, the jewelry can cause damage to your teeth. If the jewelry rubs against your teeth, it could contribute to enamel wear, chipped teeth, and receding gum lines. If you have poor oral health or already struggle with some of these issues, then you should think about another piercing instead.
Unfortunately, there’s a stigma surrounding tongue piercings that says that one only gets their tongue pierced in order to perform sex acts. While this is untrue, many might assume that your tongue piercing is a sign of your promiscuity. If you’re concerned about what others might think or getting some unwanted attention, then you should think hard about whether this is the piercing for you.
How much will it cost?
The tongue piercing will cost anywhere between $30 and $100. Often, this price won’t include the jewelry.
The tongue piercing is a delicate procedure that requires experience. Since the anatomy of the tongue dictates where the piercing will be placed or whether you can even get the piercing, you must choose a piercer who knows what they’re doing. Your piercer should be able to guide you in the right direction and know how to avoid areas that they can damage.
Tongue piercing placement
There are a few different places that you can get your tongue pierced, from the standard tongue piercing to the double-pierced frog piercing.
The standard tongue piercing takes place at the center of the tongue, but it can be placed further forward or back or even to the sides, depending on your preference. This is something that you’ll want to discuss with your piercer. They’ll be able to let you know whether the placement that you prefer will affect your speech or cause other disturbances.
You can also get a frog eye tongue piercing (or a double tongue piercing). This is essentially the same as a standard tongue piercing, but with two piercings instead of one. You can place them close to each other (either vertically or horizontally) in different areas of the tongue, or you can even spread them out, placing one on either side of the tongue. This piercing type is also ideal for those who want the snake eye tongue piercing aesthetic. The snake eye tongue piercing is completely unsafe and should not be performed because it pierces multiple muscles and can affect tongue function. However, it’s perfectly safe to place a frog eyes piercing at the tip of the tongue for a similar look.