Tongue Piercing Tips

Woman with tongue piercing
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Tongue piercings are a very particular look that goes in and out of fashion. While some people choose oral piercings for a desired pleasurable effect, others just like the way they look. It's true that tongue piercings can aide in sexual pleasure, but bear in mind that's not always the case. What works for some may not work for others, so don't ever get pierced with the intent of being any more skilled than you were before the procedure in the bedroom. Only get a tongue piercing if it suits the vibe you're going for; these piercings are quite the commitment.

Personal comfort wearing an oral piercing is also subject to change. Some people love the sensation of jewelry in their mouths whereas others simply can't get used to the taste, feel, or accidental bite on their metal despite their desire to wear the adornment. A proper fitting with ensure the best results. The following tongue piercing tips will help you care for a new piercing and determine if this body modification is the right choice for you.

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 eight 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 all the way 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 really 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'll need to 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 simple and quick piercing procedure. According to Brian Keith Thompson, owner and Chief Piercing Officer of Body Electric Tattoo in Los Angeles, "tongue piercing really doesn't hurt that badly, a standard tongue piercing, because it's actually piercing through the connective tissue. The tongue is two separate muscles, so it's not that painful." The location of most piercings is towards the back of the tongue where there are less nerves other than those that primarily signal taste and temperatures.

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 NY Presbyterian Hospital – Weill Cornell Medical Center. In a nutshell, a tongue piercing can take anywhere from four to eight weeks to heal and only seconds to insert. That said, your milage 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 just 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+ for real high-end service. "If you don't have a lot of money, you can find a piercer that is piercing with jewelry that 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, its 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 normal diet, enjoy a menu of soups, ice cream, and smoothies, which will not 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. In order 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 8 ounces of distilled water) for 30 seconds at least 3 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, "Definitely don't use harsh astringents like alcohol or peroxide. No grandmother's secret remedies," he says. Stick to soap and water or 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 is temporary and minimal. It will appear white at first and may even form a lump before it slowly minimizes in size and color.
  • 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. "Just know this 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 1 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 begin to close rather rapidly. It's never wise to keep your jewelry out for an extended period of time, so make the commitment. A central piercing position is the most popular placement for a tongue piercing.

What Type of Jewelry Is Used for Tongue Piercing?

  • Barbell: "The only thing you would really wear in a tongue piercing is a barbell," says Thompson. The length of the barbell with largely depend on the anatomical positioning of your tongue and will vary from person to person.

What Jewelry Material Is Used for Tongue Piercing?

  • Gold: "If you can invest and if you just have to have your tongue pierced, that's what you really want to do, I would say say definitely use a gold barbell," says Thompson. "[G]old is softer metal and it will bend and likely you won't break a tooth."
  • Titanium: "Titanium is the very best choice for anyone with sensitive skin," says Murphy-Rose. It's also good for those with nickel sensitivities, which is many people, according to Thompson. However, "Titanium is a very hard, dense metal" that can easily break tooth enamel, he says.
  • Surgical steel: "The best and safest metals for piercings are titanium and surgical 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 does contain trace amounts.

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