Tongue Piercing Tips

Woman with tongue piercing
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Tongue piercings go in and out of fashion, but they're always considered one of the funkiest piercings you can get without moving too far outside the box. You may have heard the rumors that some people choose oral piercings for a... desired pleasurable effect in the bedroom. While it's true that tongue piercings can aid in sexual pleasure, bear in mind that's not always the case, nor is it the only reason to get one. What works for some may not work for others, so we suggest only going for a tongue piercing if it suits the vibe you're going for; after all, these piercings are quite the commitment.

Personal comfort is another factor to consider with an oral piercing. Some people love the sensation of jewelry in their mouths, but it can take awhile to get used to the taste and feel—not to mention the first moment when you accidentally bite metal instead of your lunch! So, before you book that appointment, do your research on tongue piercings. We've rounded up all you need to know about the risk factors, aftercare tips, and more.

Tongue Piercing

Placement: Anywhere on the tongue

Pricing: $30-$50; price will vary depending on the jewelry chosen

Pain level: 6/10

Healing time: Four to six weeks

Aftercare: Avoid poking and prodding the new piercing until it's fully healed; consume soft, non-irritating foods; keep the area clean; practice good oral hygiene

What is a Tongue Piercing?

A standard tongue piercing is placed anywhere on the tongue, from the front of it to the back. Your piercer can also place jewelry to the left or the right side of the midline of your tongue. These types of less-standard piercings are called alternative placements, and they must be performed under the diligent hand of a skilled piercer. Your body and anatomy must be properly analyzed for a tongue piercing, so never settle for a piercer who puts you in the standard "box."

Before you opt for an oral piercing of any sort, you'll need to determine if you are a candidate for the piercing procedure. If you have an oral history of inflamed gums or bad teeth, you should clear any piercing with your dentist first as a safety measure.

Pain and Healing Time

Although oral piercings may carry the stigma of being ultra-sensitive, a tongue piercing is a relatively quick and straightforward piercing procedure. According to Brian Keith Thompson, owner and Chief Piercing Officer of Body Electric Tattoo in Los Angeles, "a standard tongue piercing doesn't hurt that badly, because it's piercing through the connective tissue. The tongue is two separate muscles, so it's not that painful." A central piercing position is the most popular placement for a tongue piercing and the back of the tongue.

Despite this, you should expect to feel some pressure during the procedure, and you'll also experience minimal swelling after the piercing.

More good news? "Tongue piercings heal relatively quickly due to the highly vascular nature of the tongue," says Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, FAAD, Clinical Assistant Professor at New York-Presbyterian Hospital – Weill Cornell Medical Center. In a nutshell, a tongue piercing can take anywhere from four to six weeks to heal and only seconds to insert. That said, your mileage may vary. Healing can take more or less time, depending on several factors. "Are you a smoker? Are you drinking a lot? Are you eating organically, you know, all these things matter," says Thompson. Even your natural body chemistry can impact healing time.

Cost of Tongue Piercing

A tongue piercing should not be any more or less expensive on the whole from other styles of piercing. At a reputable piercer, the procedure itself should cost between $30-$50, not including the cost of the jewelry, though Thompson says you can pay $75 or more for real high-end service. "If you don't have a lot of money, you can find a piercer who is piercing with jewelry that is safe that isn't going to give you anxiety when you look at your bank account after you get it done," he says. But make sure you're doing your research. While plenty of cheap piercing jewelry is available, and you might be tempted to cut corners, it's worth investing in a metal that won't irritate you (more on that below).

Aftercare

Until your tongue piercing is healed and you can begin to resume a regular diet, enjoy a menu of soups, ice cream, and smoothies, which are less likely to irritate the newly pierced area.

"Microorganisms like bacteria and fungi are abundant in the mouth, so it is no surprise that tongue piercings are highly vulnerable to infection," says Murphy-Rose. To prevent infection, you'll want to follow aftercare instructions to a T. "It is especially important to practice excellent oral hygiene (brushing and flossing) and take good care of your piercing. Use an alcohol-free mouthwash like Biotene or a sea salt solution rinse (approximately ¼ teaspoon of non-iodized sea salt in eight ounces of distilled water) for 30 seconds at least three times daily; including after every meal."

Thompson wholeheartedly agrees: "A tongue piercing is it's very hard on the mouth. Anything steel or metal on the tongue will eventually start wearing the enamel of your teeth." As far as cleansing goes, "Don't use harsh astringents like alcohol or peroxide. No grandmother's secret remedies," he says. Instead, stick to a saline solution. "That increases the pH balance in the wound and also helps keep it clean, but it's not so harsh that it's stripping the skin of the oils it needs to help rebuild itself."

Foodies will need to be especially careful in the weeks following a new tongue piercing. "For the first month, you will want to avoid acidic and spicy foods and other potential irritants," says Murphy-Rose. Drink cool beverages and don't smoke while the piercing is healing.

Side Effects of Piercing

  • Infection: As with any piercing, infection is a risk. According to Murphy-Rose, "It is important to look out for signs of infection (including fever, chills, redness, swelling, and increasing pain) as they can become very serious and even fatal."
  • Scarring and inflammation: Scar tissue tends to be temporary and minimal.
  • Speech impediments: To avoid any speech impediments, proper placement is crucial.
  • Dental issues: The biggest risk from this form of body piercing is permanent damage caused to your teeth from chipping and biting down on the jewelry, of course, by accident. "If you do pierce anything in your mouth, you are at risk for tooth damage and gum recession," says Thompson.
  • Bleeding: "To reduce the risk of bleeding, follow the instructions of your piercer," says Murphy-Rose. "Many will recommend avoidance of alcohol and any non-medically essential medications or supplements that increase bleeding risk like NSAIDs, vitamin E, and fish oil, among others, about one week prior to your piercing."

How to Change Out Tongue Piercing

"Avoid changing the jewelry until after the piercing has healed. Consider having a professional change your jewelry the first time," says Murphy-Rose. Once oral jewelry is removed, a tongue piercing can heal and close rather rapidly. It's never wise to keep your jewelry out for an extended period, so make the commitment.

What Type of Jewelry Is Used for Tongue Piercing?

  • Barbell: "The only thing you would wear in a tongue piercing is a barbell," says Thompson. The length of the barbell largely depends on the anatomical positioning of your tongue and will vary from person to person.
  • Labret stud: Similar to the barbell, this style of jewelry has a flat disc that sits on the underside of the tongue to hold it in place, with the decorative stud on top.

What Jewelry Material Is Used for Tongue Piercing?

  • Gold: "If you can invest in it, I would say use a gold barbell," says Thompson. "Gold is a softer metal, and it will bend so likely you won't break a tooth."
  • Titanium: "Titanium is the very best choice for anyone with sensitive skin," says Murphy-Rose. According to Thompson, it's also suitable for those with nickel sensitivities, which is many people. However, "Titanium is a tough, dense metal" that can easily break tooth enamel, he says.
  • Stainless steel: "The best and safest metals for piercings are titanium and stainless steel followed by gold (14k or 18k, and not gold-plated). These are the most biocompatible, hypoallergenic, and least likely to lead to infection," says Murphy-Rose. If you have a nickel sensitivity, stick with titanium or gold, as steel might contain trace amounts of nickel.
Article Sources
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  1. Center for Young Women's Health. Body piercing. Updated February 5, 2020.

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