Have you considered getting a tongue piercing? This article is full of useful information about tongue piercings, tongue piercing aftercare, and tongue piercing barbells (a.k.a. tongue rings), so you can be fully prepared before committing.
What Is a Tongue Piercing?
A tongue piercing is typically placed in the center of the tongue to avoid hitting a nerve or damaging the webbing, or frenulum, under the tongue (i.e. the part that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth, which is sometimes also pierced). Some people have multiple tongue piercings, either in a triangle or diamond shape, or they may have "snake bites" on their tongue, with a piercing on either side of the center of the tongue.
Getting a Tongue Piercing: What's Involved?
First, you need to find a good piercer to do your tongue piercing. Preferably, find an establishment that comes highly recommended by your pierced pals and that has a good reputation in your community. If you can't get a referral for a skilled piercer, reference the Association of Professional Piercers' database.
The cost of a tongue piercing depends on the shop and the location. Tongue piercing prices may be higher in metropolitan areas, but it's often easier to find a reputable piercer in a city than in a rural area. Additionally, you may pay more for a special tongue ring or multiple tongue piercings done simultaneously.
Once you pick out your jewelry and your piercer confirms that the tongue barbell is long enough to account for any swelling you experience after being pierced, s/he will autoclave the jewelry to sterilize it and prepare a sterile field, laying out the clamps, needle, and other tools needed to pierce your tongue. You may be given a special mouthwash to cleanse your mouth before the piercing is done. Your piercer will then determine the best placement for your tongue ring, and may then clamp your tongue before piercing it with a hollow needle that allows the jewelry to be pulled through easily with little additional discomfort to you. S/he will then screw on the bottom ball, and your piercing should be done! You may find the length of the barbell a bit uncomfortable at first, primarily due to its length. Once the swelling has subsided, you may see your piercer again to have your jewelry changed out for a shorter barbell that will be more comfortable to wear on an ongoing basis.
A tongue piercing usually takes 4-6 weeks to fully heal, and during that time you should practice thorough tongue piercing aftercare. Rinse your mouth regularly (2-3x/day, at least after meals) with a special mouthwash, like Recovery Oral Rinse. You can also boil water for at least 5 minutes to sterilize it, measure 1 cup into a heat-safe container, stir in 1/4 tsp. sea salt (not table salt, which contains iodine), let it cool, and then gently swish it around your mouth to promote healing and remove any debris that's gotten trapped in your piercing when eating. Do NOT rinse your mouth with full-strength, alcohol-based mouthwash while your piercing is healing! Continue brushing your teeth 2-3x/day gently, using a soft-bristled toothbrush. Proper tongue piercing aftercare involves consistent, gentle cleansing; strong cleansers like alcohol-based mouthwash or hydrogen peroxide can do more harm than good.
You should be careful to eat soft foods during the first week after getting your tongue pierced, and longer if needed. Consider foods like applesauce, mashed potatoes, soups, yogurt, oatmeal, pudding, Jell-O, protein drinks, etc. Always rinse your mouth well after eating.
During the healing process, particularly during the first week, you may experience swelling of the tongue. Performing the tongue piercing aftercare regime detailed above is the best way to take care of your new piercing; the better you care for it, the faster it will heal and the faster the swelling will diminish. If you can tolerate IBProfen, you can take the dose recommended on the bottle to help reduce swelling and general discomfort. You should not apply ice directly to your piercing as part of your tongue piercing care plan, but drinking ice water may be soothing and help with swelling to some degree, too.
For additional tongue piercing care tips, visit our Tongue Piercing Aftercare page.
Changing Your Tongue Ring
Ideally, you should wait until your tongue piercing is fully healed before changing your tongue barbell, which may also be called a "tongue ring" even though you will rarely see actual rings worn in a tongue piercing. However, if you develop an irritation on the bottom of your mouth because your starter barbell is too long for you and the bottom ball is constantly digging into the area beneath your tongue, then you may need to get a shorter tongue barbell put in after the initial swelling has subsided (typically within 1-2 weeks of being pierced).
When choosing a new tongue ring, you should first find out the exact length and gauge of your starter barbell. Straight barbells are measured from one end of the shaft to the other, not including the threaded ends or the balls. Your next barbell should be somewhat shorter than your starter barbell, so it fits comfortably in your mouth. A typical size for tongue rings is 14g 5/8". Do not try to change gauges within the first 6 weeks; pick a new tongue barbell that's the same gauge as your starter one. Later, once you're fully healed, you can stretch to a larger size, if desired. If you are unsure of the gauge and length of your current barbell, or what options you should look for in your new one, speak to your piercer before ordering a new tongue barbell. If you know you can only wear surgical steel or titanium (best for those with sensitive skin), be sure to purchase a new barbell made of that material.
Painful Pleasures offers the world's largest assortment of tongue ring gauges, lengths, ball styles, and materials, so you're sure to find what you need in our store, including flesh-colored piercing retainers for those who work or live with people less open-minded than they are. We can sterilize your jewelry for you for a small fee, and we'll ship it to you anywhere in the world!
Potential Tongue Piercing Problems
Without proper aftercare, your tongue piercing will not heal in a timely manner. Be prepared to do regular rinses on a daily basis and to avoid hard foods for the first 1-2 weeks. Think twice before getting a piercing if the aftercare regime sounds too rigorous for you or you know you won't have time to rinse multiple times a day.
Sometimes, even when someone takes very good care of their new tongue piercing, they may experience problems with it. If at any point your tongue swells so much that the top and bottom balls of your tongue piercing barbell are pressing into your tongue or being "swallowed" by the fistula (i.e. hole where you were pierced), then you should see your piercer immediately to have a longer barbell inserted. Prolonged pressure of the jewelry against your tongue may cause tissue death, also known as necrosis, which can lead to infection. To reduce swelling, you may try taking IBProfen per the instructions on the bottle, if you can tolerate it. Drinking cold drinks or even sucking on ice chips may also be soothing and help reduce swelling. If you suspect that you're allergic to the metal your jewelry is made of, get your piercer to help you switch to a titanium barbell. Titanium is the most inert metal and therefore the least likely to cause an allergic reaction. You may also want to re-evaluate what you're eating and go back to softer foods for a few days to give your tongue a rest and time to heal.
For additional tongue piercing tips, be sure to visit our body piercing forum!