Everything You Need to Know About Tongue Piercings
Tongue Piercing Info
This article is based on my personal experience of getting my tongue pierced, and it covers:
- General information about tongue piercings
- Who can get them
- How to get them done
- What to expect before, during, and after
- How to care for them
- Tongue piercing facts (and myths)
Find Out Whether You Can Get Your Tongue Pierced
Not everyone can get their tongue pierced because the procedure is risky and tricky, though most people can.
It is extremely important that you allow a professionally licensed piercer to properly assess you before piercing. Do not attempt to pierce your own tongue. You could end up with nerve damage.
Who Can't Get Their Tongue Pierced?
- People who have a very short tongue. This includes you if you are unable to stick out your tongue or stick it out very far.
- People who have a lot of webbing that stretches far up the tongue. This webbing should NEVER be cut because cutting can cause extreme swelling, suffocation, and bleeding. It is not legal for anyone but a medical surgeon in a hospital to cut a tongue to increase its length.
- People who have a vein in the wrong place. Some people have a vein directly down the center of their tongue. Even so, you may be able to get a piercing if the piercer can put it at a slight slant or offset it so it doesn't touch your artery. You may not be able to get venoms (a piercing on either side) if your veins are running down the sides of the tongue. Your piercer can assess whether this will be an issue.
- People with certain health conditions. If you suffer from any form of paralysis, nerve issues, or any health conditions, you should alert your piercer.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Get Your Tongue Pierced?
U.S.: Most states require parental consent if the person is a minor (under 18 years old). In some states, a parent must also be present during the process. The states where there are no laws concerning age limits for piercings include Alaska, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon.
U.K.: People who are between 14 to 16 years old need parental consent, but can do without a parental consent if they are 16 to 18. Local laws may vary.
Studios are allowed to set their own standards as well, so even if you live in a state or area where there is no age limit or where the law does not require parental consent, the studio may still require it. Ask the studio before you go.
Things You Need to Know Before Getting a Tongue Piercing
You should always research a body modification before getting it done. You need to know the process, what questions to ask, what to look out for, and how to choose a studio.
How to Choose Your Studio
- You should choose a studio that has been established for a long time and has plenty of experience with piercing. Ask for the piercer's portfolio. An established piercer will have a binder of their work to show you.
- You should also choose a studio that carries a government license. Professional piercers can prove they are licensed.
- Is the establishment clean? Check the walls, flooring, and ceiling. If the shop isn't clean, leave and find another place!
- Look for an autoclave. This is a small machine that looks sort of like a microwave and is used to sterilize equipment. If you don't see one, ask to see it. Sometimes they keep it in the back. Never choose a studio that doesn't have sterilizing equipment.
- You should never go somewhere just because it is cheapest; the cheaper it is, the lower the quality of the service and equipment that you will get. You are welcome to shop around, look for reviews, and find somewhere that fits just right.
- Tongues are usually pierced with a 16-18mm by 1.6mm straight barbell made from either titanium or surgical stainless steel.
- Your piercer will explain the potential allergies some people have to stainless steel and have you sign a document to show you understand.
- Titanium is the best metal because it is the least likely to cause an allergic reaction.
- You should never have a tongue pierced with a short bar, with a ring, or with any metal other than titanium or surgical-grade stainless steel.
- Your barbell can come in any color and type, and you will be free to choose at the studio.
- You'll likely go back to the piercer to get a shorter barbell once the swelling has gone down.
- A tongue piercing is typically one of the least painful piercings, but this depends on the person. For me the pain level was at a zero. I felt it, but it didn't hurt me in the slightest.
- The longer your tongue is, the less you will feel.
- To help you understand what the pain is like, this tongue piercing pain chart compares the pain of getting your tongue pierced to the pain of getting a flu shot, teeth extraction, biting your tongue, etc. Tongue piercing pain is relatively low on the list.
How Much Is a Tongue Piercing?
The average cost for both the piercing and the jewelry is usually around $30 to $90. Some piercers may charge separately for the piercing procedure and the tongue ring. Call ahead to inquire about the price.
Types of Tongue Piercings
- Midline: The midline tongue piercing is the most common type. This is where the jewelry goes straight through the middle of your tongue (about 1.9cm from the tip of the tongue). This type of piercing uses a straight barbell.
- Frenulum: This under-tongue piercing or web piercing is located underneath the tongue on the frenulum. The frenulum is a fold of mucous membrane that connects the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. A curved barbell or a circular barbell is used.
- Horizontal: This piercing goes straight across your tongue, and the balls of the barbell stick out on either side. Horizontal tongue piercings are extremely dangerous, so talk to a professional about the potential risks.
- Tip: A tip-of-tongue piercing is a type of horizontal piercing, but instead of being placed in the middle, it is placed on the tip. The balls of the barbell stick out to form what looks like snake eyes, which is why tip-of-tongue piercings are also known as snake eye piercings or venom piercings.
- Side: This one is done in a similar fashion to the midline piercing but is placed slightly to the left or right side of the tongue instead of in the middle.
What You Need to Do Before Getting Your Tongue Pierced
- Once you have chosen your studio, you can go in and ask as many questions as you want. You should always go somewhere reputable and very clean where they do not reuse their equipment.
- When you go in you will be asked to sign a consent form. You should read this carefully. Let your piercer know if you are on any medication or have any health conditions or any allergies. These can have a big impact.
- Be sure you're feeling fit and healthy when you go to get your piercing. Menstruation does not count for feeling under the weather. I am talking about a cold, getting over an illness, or being on antibiotics.
- Make sure to eat something substantial. Food helps to calm the nerves.
- Wear loose and comfortable clothing.
- Be sure to brush your teeth, floss, and rinse your mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash beforehand to reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth.
- Once you have signed your consent form and chosen your jewelry, your piercer will set up the cubicle, private room, or piercing station for you. At this time, you may ask how they clean their tools, how long they have been piercing, or any other information. You'll want to ask your questions now because you might not feel like talking much after the procedure.
The Tongue Piercing Process
Before they pierce, they will check your veins. Sometimes, if they cannot see them clearly they will use a blue light on your skin to make the veins show.
This is how they will pierce your tongue:
- Once they mark the position, they will clamp the area and pierce you. The clamp holds your tongue in place and gives them an accurate target. They may pierce straight down the middle, at a slight angle, off to one side, or in another position.
- After the needle has gone through, they will remove it and slide the jewelry in through the hole in your tongue.
- Then, they will attach the ball. After this, you are ready to leave.
- They will let you check it out in the mirror and make sure you're okay before you go.
Note: The piercing should never be close to the tip and should never touch the teeth or cause a speech impediment. Speech impediments only happen if the person has a tongue that is too short to pierce correctly, or if it has been pierced wrong (too close to the tip).
- The piercer should give you some advice on aftercare. If they don't offer it, ask if they can write down the instructions or give you a handout or flyer.
- Once you leave the studio, the piercing is in your hands. The piercer should have done it professionally with sterile equipment. People do not seem to understand that any infection that follows is always a result of lack of proper care. So don't blame the piercer! That's why you get a piercing done by a licensed professional and sign a consent form.
- You may have to return after your piercing has healed to get a shorter barbell. When you first get pierced, they use a longer barbell to allow for swelling. Once the swelling subsides, the barbell will be too loose, which is why you need to go back to get a shorter one.
Tongue Piercing Aftercare
Your aftercare is the most important part of your piercing. Once you have it done, you are responsible for healing and cleaning it. Your piercer will talk you through the basic care and you should follow their advice. They are the professional.
You want to make sure you have a clean toothbrush, your own toothpaste, and alcohol-free mouthwash. Rinsing with alcohol will more likely aggravate the piercing and cause extra swelling and discomfort.
How Long Does It Take a Tongue Piercing to Heal?
- The healing time will depend on the person, the care, and the amount of swelling.
- In general, the healing period takes two to four weeks after getting them done. A piercing will usually be fully healed within eight weeks. Most are healed before that, but, again, it depends on you.
- Oral piercings are the fastest to heal and least likely to have problems if cared for correctly. To get a more in-depth understanding on how to heal your tongue piercing, check out the descriptions of the day-to-day healing process.
- Your piercing needs to be cleaned one to two times per day in the morning and at night.
- You should brush your teeth as you normally do. Then, rinse with warm water and non-alcoholic mouthwash or use a salt mixture (1/4 teaspoon of sea salt in an 8 oz. glass of water). Rinse for 60 seconds. Do not rinse excessively with the mouthwash. Do not use hydrogen peroxide!
- After eating, you can rinse with water and have plenty to drink.
- If you have to touch your piercing (which you shouldn't), be sure to wash your hands well beforehand.
- It is normal to have a lot of swelling after a tongue piercing. The swelling is worst on days two and three, but will reduce over the course of the week.
- It helps to suck on clean ice cubes and drink cold drinks.
- To help reduce swelling, you need to sleep with your head elevated above your heart. You can prop yourself up, which is even better.
- Ibuprofen is good for pain relief (which you likely won't have). It can also reduce swelling.
What to Eat After a Tongue Piercing
You may eat and drink virtually anything from ramen to soda, however, be warned that spicy foods may make your piercing sore. Most people can eat normally after a tongue piercing. I myself ate normal solids straight after, though you might find softer, blander foods easier to handle. The following are foods that are easy to consume and won't irritate your new tongue ring.
Foods to Eat
- Non-spicy soups (don't eat while hot)
- Noodles or pasta
- Ice cream
- Sandwiches with soft bread and meats
- Salmon or tuna
- Non-acidic fruit
Foods to Avoid
- Hot drinks, such as coffee or tea
- Pineapple, kiwi, pickles, lemons, or anything sour
- Cookies, nuts, crackers, chips, and granola bars (or anything hard and crumbly)
- Peanut butter and caramel (or anything sticky)
- Spicy foods, such as peppers, salsa, or curry
Can You Drink Alcohol After a Tongue Piercing?
While alcohol does disinfect, it can also kill skin cells, which slows the healing process and causes swelling, itching, and infection. Avoid alcoholic drinks as well as anything strongly acidic, like vinegar. Also avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol.
Things You Must Avoid Doing After Getting a New Tongue Ring
- Paracetamol or aspirin (which can increase swelling by thinning the blood)
- Rinsing with alcoholic mouthwash or hydrogen peroxide
- Drinking alcohol
- Kissing. Abstain for a minimum of three weeks after getting your tongue pierced. Kissing is the second most likely source of infection risk.
- Oral sex. Abstain for a minimum of three months after getting your tongue pierced. This is the greatest source of infection risk.
- Playing with the piercing.
- Putting your hands in your mouth for any reason at all because this will spread germs and potential health risks.
- Smoking. This can cause irritation, infection, discomfort, and excess swelling.
- NEVER remove or attempt to change your tongue ring. A tongue piercing can close within seconds of being removed. Oral piercings heal and shut very quickly!
Remember that your piercing is an open wound. Although it can heal within a month, you should not do any of the above for a minimum of two to three months as they could lead to complications or serious infection.
Although rinsing is encouraged, excessive rinsing kills the natural enzymes in your mouth that fight bacteria. This may cause your tongue to turn green or brown. If this happens, reduce your use of mouthwash.
Normal Signs vs. Abnormal Signs After a Tongue Piercing
Things That Are Normal
- Swelling for up to two weeks after having the piercing. Normally the swelling fills the longer bar and reduces after around four days.
- Some discomfort, especially when eating or talking excessively.
- Feeling a little "run down" and tired or getting swollen glands. You feel this way because your body sees the piercing as a foreign object and will send the troops (i.e. your immune system) to investigate.
- Not being able to stick your tongue out fully.
- A small amount of white or very pale yellow pus coming out of the piercing. This should have no odor.
- You feel a tingling
Things That Are Not Normal
- Excessive swelling that gets worse even after four days, so that the bar becomes embedded or painful, or the piercing feels as though blood flow is being cut off
- Numbness or throbbing
- Difficulty breathing
- Dark brown, green or yellow pus, especially with an odour (a sign of infection)
- Blisters on the tongue, burning, redness, excess swelling (a sign of allergy)
- Fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, flu symptoms
- Bleeding (other than a tiny amount just after the piercing). If it keeps bleeding, call the studio right away and ask for advice.
- Pain after the first day of having it done or the pain that gets worse
- Swelling of the throat
- Speech impediments
If you have any of the abnormal symptoms above, you should speak to a piercer immediately, and then go to the hospital if they advise.
6 Signs of an Infected Tongue
- Swelling persists or becomes worse.
- Redness. Some redness is normal immediately following a piercing, but it becomes a cause for concern if it persists and is accompanied by pain.
- Red streaks. If you see red streaks radiating out from the piercing and onto the sides and front of your tongue, then you are dealing with an advanced infection that requires immediate attention. Usually red streaks are accompanied by tenderness.
- Continued bleeding 24 hours after the initial piercing.
- Discoloration of the tongue. The tongue may turn green, yellow, purple, or black.
- Presence of pus.
I must state that the risk of infection is drastically smaller than the stereotype says. Infection is 99% caused by people kissing or being orally intimate with people before the piercing is healed.
If infection happens, it's usually in the first month of having it done. Lack of care causes infection. A piercing, any piercing, is an open wound and should be treated just like you'd treat any other wound: WITH CAUTION.
You should NEVER remove an infected piercing yourself as the infection will get trapped in your body and poison your blood. If you are concerned, speak to your piercer and your doctor immediately.
Are Tongue Piercings Bad for You?
According to the American Dental Association, tongue rings can cause damage in your mouth. Some people have the habit of rubbing their jewelry against their teeth or biting on it, which may cause chipping or erosion of the enamel. If the tongue ring is not placed correctly, it could also rub against the gums and cause gum recession. A short barbell is more likely to cause damage because it is easier to rub against the teeth than a longer one.
Learn about the risks by asking the studio. If they are reputable, they will be happy to address any concerns you have. If you want to avoid these risks, try not to form the habit of playing with the ring inside your mouth.
All About Tongue Piercings
Tongue piercings are traditionally signs of prostitutes and the promiscuous.
Tongue piercings have been around in many cultures and in many tribes throughout history. Most people get a tongue piercing done for reasons that have nothing to do with sex. The truth is that it creates little oral pleasure for the wearer or the receiver of sexual favors.
Tongue piercings nearly always get infected.
Tongue piercings are actually unlikely to get infected and will very rarely become infected IF CARED FOR CORRECTLY. If it is infected, it hasn't been looked after correctly.
You can pierce yourself if you know where your veins are.
You should never attempt to pierce yourself as you could permanently hurt yourself.
The cheapest studio is the same as an expensive one, just cheaper.
The cheapest studios have fewer highly qualified piercers, lower-quality equipment, less choice of jewellery, and a lower-grade reputation. You pay for quality.
You can buy piercing equipment online that's sterile.
Piercing equipment online may be sold as sterile, but it rarely is. Many times it is just dipped in alcohol or vinegar. By the time it reaches you it could have pricked no end of fingers or have become severely contaminated.
You can go out drinking after getting a tongue piercing.
You should avoid alcohol for a minimum of two to three weeks after a piercing as it can cause irritation, pain, excess swelling, and other complications. But after that, you can drink to your heart's content.
Smoking doesn't affect tongue piercings.
Smoking can cause extra swelling, infection, and other problems. It should be avoided for at least two to three weeks after a piercing.
Tongue piercings cause speech impediments.
A correctly pierced tongue will not cause a speech impediment. Some studios will illegally cut tongue webbing or will pierce a tongue that is too short just to get money.
Tongue piercings leave terrible scars.
Tongue piercings rarely leave any scars or marks when removed. In fact, they can close very quickly.
Tongue piercings affect your taste buds or damage the vallate papillae.
This is false. If you experience a metallic taste, then you're likely using a cheap tongue bar made of something that is not titanium or stainless steel.
- Johanna Carlson, "Tongue Piercing Aftercare," HealthGuidance. Accessed October 26, 2017.
- "Tongue Piercing Healing Process & Care Guide," AuthorityTattoo. Accessed October 26, 2017.
- "Tongue Piercing Procedure: How a Tongue Gets Pierced," OralAnswers. Published February 9, 2011. Accessed October 26, 2017.
- Laura, "Tongue Piercing FAQs," PainfulPleasures. Published April 12, 2014. Accessed October 26, 2017.
- "Tongue Piercing Healing, Stages, Pictures, Time, Process and Tips," LightSkinCure. Accessed October 26, 2017.
- Michael Friedman, DDS, "Oral Piercings: What You Should Know," WebMD. Published May 24, 2016. Accessed October 26, 2017.
- "Tongue Piercing Damages Teeth, Gums," WebMD. Published in 2002. Accessed October 26, 2017.