While those of us who worshiped the Spice Girls in the 90s can clearly think back to Mel B’s iconic pierced tongue, tongue piercing has been around for much, much longer. Historians have traced the tongue piercing back to ancient rituals performed by the Aztecs and Mayans.
Today, the tongue piercing can make quite a statement. While it’s not visible all the time, it is immediately noticeable when you open your mouth or stick out your tongue. The tongue piercing can be purely for ornamentation or it can be for added sexual pleasure as well.
Regardless of the reason you are considering one, it’s important to consider these 6 things about tongue piercings.
1. Possible Placement
Often, dentists warn about lip and tongue piercings because these types of piercings can contribute to oral and dental decay.
Typically, piercers will want to position the piercing anywhere from 5/8" to 3/4" of an inch from the tip of the tongue. This is to ensure that your tongue piercing doesn’t interfere with your tooth or gum line and cause either receding gum lines, tooth decay, and/or a broken tooth.
Additionally, the piercing must be placed in front of or to the side of the frenulum, or connective tissue between the bottom of your mouth and your tongue. If you have a shorter frenulum and aren’t able to stick out your tongue, this may not be the recommended piercing for you.
The most common type of tongue piercing is the central, midline tongue piercing. This piercing goes vertically through the tongue. However, there are other types of tongue piercings, which include:
- non-midline tongue piercings: snake bites, venom, viper bites, etc.
- tongue tip piercings
- horizontal tongue piercings - we covered why this one is not a good idea below
- tongue web piercings
- side tongue piercings
It’s also important to know that your piercer will generally pierce your tongue so that the jewelry rests at a slant with the bottom coming out in front slightly further. This is to help ensure that the jewelry doesn’t stand up straight and damage your teeth as well as to help the jewelry rest on your upper and lower palate where there is the most space for it.
2.There’s Only One Option for Jewelry
You read that right—the only viable jewelry option for a tongue piercing is a straight barbell.
This doesn’t mean you’re stuck with a simple metal barbell and ends, though. You can get an anodized barbell so that it is the color you want and you can play around with the thousands upon thousands of combinations of ends to wear.
Generally, your piercer will pierce your tongue at either a 14 or a 12 gauge. 14 gauge tends to be more common, especially when it comes to jewelry options, but other piercers prefer the thicker nature of the 12-gauge piercing.
When you initially get pierced, your jewelry will be longer to accommodate for the swelling that will occur. You do not want to downsize until your tongue has gone back to a normal size and the swelling has completely died down. This is usually 3 to 4 weeks into the healing process but can take longer because everyone's body heals differently.
3. A Surprisingly Quick Healing Time
Did you know that your mouth is one of the fastest healing places on your body? This is all thanks to saliva, which promotes the healing of oral wounds. Therefore, a tongue piercing will heal relatively faster than most other piercings simply due to the location.
A tongue piercing generally takes around a month or two to fully heal. However, like stated above, everyone's body does not heal at the same rate. While some might heal in a month, others can take longer. If you are concerned or have questions about your tongue piercing, please see a professional piercer in your area.
4. Oh, The Swelling!
There’s a scene in the movie Rat Race where Vince Vieluf’s character has a very swollen (and infected!) tongue piercing and is unable to speak coherent sentences. While this is a severe cinematic over-exaggeration, your tongue will swell—A LOT.
When your piercer pierces your tongue, they will go in between the two muscles in the tongue and pierce through the mucus membrane. Mucous tissue likes to swell so it’s important to note that you will have some difficulty speaking, maybe even speaking with a slight lisp. Additionally, you’ll need to eat food slower and it may feel better to eat some softer foods at first as you get used to the swelling and feeling of the new jewelry in your mouth.
The good news is that the peak swelling lasts for only around two to three days.
5. Stay Away from Irritating Foods
As you heal your new tongue piercing, you’ll want to avoid certain foods that tend to be more irritating to an open oral wound.
These foods include, but are not limited to:
- Hot and spicy foods
- Anything with citrus
- Anything acidic, like tomatoes
- Sticky foods that have the potential to stick to your jewelry (oatmeal or mashed potatoes)
These can irritate your new piercing and cause more swelling as well as an extended healing time.
Maintain a Good Aftercare Routine
In order to ensure your piercing heals in a timely manner without any issues, you’ll want to make sure you keep up with the aftercare. The good news is that aftercare for a tongue piercing is quite simple.
First, avoid all mouthwash that contains alcohol, as this can be drying and irritating to the new piercing. Instead, opt for a mouthwash like Biotene.
Next, make a saline solution to do rinses with. First, buy a gallon of distilled water at your grocery store and mix four teaspoons of either non-iodized or all-natural sea salt into it. You might want to use a small water bottle to store the solution in so it’s easy to take with you on the go. You’ll want to rinse your mouth after each meal.
Lastly, avoid touching your new piercing. Every time you adjust or rotate it, you can cause more irritation, which will prolong the healing process. Additionally, touching your piercing can introduce unwanted bacteria, which could cause an infection.
The Main Point
That’s all there is to it! Tongue piercings are easy to hide, can make quite a statement, and offer lots of versatility when it comes to jewelry. Be sure to check out our guide to tongue piercings and aftercare too.