Tongue Piercing

The Ultimate Guide to Getting a Tongue Piercing in 2023

April 2nd, 2023

Learn About Tongue Piercing to Get Your Questions Answered

So you want to get a tongue piercing? Great! Make sure you choose a piercing professional! (roll credits). Oh? Do you have questions? Well all right then, read on. Sacred Raven Tattoo & Piercings goes over some of the questions, experiences, and variants of tongue piercing including how much it hurts, what it is (duh), different piercings available for the tongue, how long it takes to heal, how much it costs, what you can do afterward to take care of your piercing, any side effects you might expect or need to address, the jewelry options, and things to know about changing out your tongue piercing bling.

Does tongue piercing hurt?

Many people’s first question is “Does tongue piercing hurt?”. Long story short, yes. Depending on the person, a tongue piercing can be a 3-4 on a pain scale or 10. Why? Because the tongue is a sensory organ with lots of nerve endings, muscles, and blood vessels and you’re sticking a needle through those, Ouch. That said, people with high pain tolerance will report that it doesn’t hurt that much, and even those who are typically more sensitive have said that it doesn’t hurt as much as an ear piercing. Truly, everyone’s pain experience is different and it’s important to know yourself, as it will be hard for us to gauge (pun intended) your response.

What is tongue piercing and how does it work?

Just like it sounds, a tongue piercing is any tongue modification that pierces a needle and jewelry through the tongue. The classic tongue piercing called a midline piercing, involves clamping the tongue with forceps then using a 14 gauge needle (for which I personally use a 5/8th barbell with a 3-to-4-millimeter ball) to pierce about halfway from the tip of your tongue to the frenulum linguae (tongue-tie) in the center of the tongue. The common term “Tongue ring” would refer to this classic or standard tongue piercing. Back in the 80’s, 90’s, and even early 2000’s, when someone said they wanted a tongue ring, everyone had the same thought in mind. Usually, a bleach blonde girl with a barb wire tattoo in a metalhead video would stick her tongue out and you would see a little silver ball right in the middle of her tongue.

Today there are several other kinds of tongue piercings in addition to the midline piercing:

  • Horizontal Tongue Piercing – Uses the needle to penetrate the jewelry through the tongue from side to side rather than top to bottom.
  • Snake Eyes Tongue Piercing – A form of horizontal tongue piercing where a curved barbell is inserted in the tongue at the tip of the tongue so that the two balls on the end of the jewelry look like snake eyes.
  • Frenulum Piercing – Also called the tongue web piercing, this pierces the very sensitive thin layer of tissue under the tongue.
  • Venom Tongue Piercing – This often gets interchanged with snake eyes piercing, but is actually different because it involves two separate vertical piercings that sit in the middle or towards the front of the tongue. As a result, this is also called a frog eye piercing because unlike the snake eyes at the tip of the tongue, a venom tongue piercing sits on top of the tongue like a frog’s eyes sit atop its head.
  • Surface Tongue Piercing – this is a combination of vertical and horizontal piercing, also known as a scoop tongue piercing, that does not penetrate through the entire tongue side-through-side or top-through-bottom, but only pierces the surface of the tongue to insert a curved barbell.

Confused yet? I don’t blame you, there are so many tongue piercings, and the hardest part of getting pierced is understanding jewelry size and anatomy, but as an advanced piercing specialist I’ll try to keep it simple and explain how it works.

About the Tongue Piercing Healing Process

The piercing specialist puts a bar that fits in your mouth without rubbing on your tongue-tie. Post-tongue piercing swelling is always a factor. For tongue piercing, specialists use an oversized bar because they can never tell how much a person might swell from the procedure. For some people, swelling is not that bad but for others, it may feel like a beehive invaded your mouth in the middle of the night. The oversized bar allows for an extra bit of room so the person is as comfortable as possible while the healing process takes place. In some extreme situations, a person may feel that the bar is too tight and cause “cratering”, basically, the jewelry is too tight and jewelry is causing a pinching feeling that makes it look like a crater is forming on the surface like a moon. This is an easy fix and your piercer can put a longer bar in to alleviate that pressure. Note: I never charge for this because it is a part of the healing process and I take care of my people, I got you G.

How long does tongue piercing take to heal?

Healing varies from 2 to 4 weeks for tongue piercing based on the kind of tongue piercing you choose, the advanced piercing specialist you used, and your body’s unique ability to heal itself.

Aftercare: How to Take Care of Your Tongue Piercing

I often recommend that people take Ibuprofen or Tylenol or whatever disinflationary medication that you can take to get that swelling under control for the first few days. Chewing on ice or cold foods, in general, are a big help too. If you are a spice lord, you may want to relax on the siracha and Tapatio for a while until you are well past the swelling faze. Cutting back on overly salty foods helps too. And for all of you people with, shall we say, “oral dependencies” (wink wink, nudge nudge) you should probably take a break from that kind of activity for a few weeks. A piercing is a healing wound and any bacteria entering that wound would not be ideal. I know, I know, cutting back on kissing and other oral activities is not going to be ideal for your partner or partners (you sly devil) but a few weeks off won’t kill you, or them. Trust me, the last thing you want to deal with is an oral infection that is completely avoidable. Boy, that was a lot of ground to cover but now that I have the basics out of the way, let’s move on.

How much does tongue piercing cost?

Nationally tongue piercing costs range between $30 – $100. In Fayetteville, North Carolina at Sacred Raven Tattoo, the cost of tongue piercing is between $45 – $65, which also includes your jewelry.

Should I get my tongue pierced?

Should I get my tongue pierced? The short answer is yes, but let’s get into some nuance. Depending on your personal anatomy, you may be better off with one piercing over another. We have already talked about the standard tongue piercing and to be honest, this is the one where some people may have trouble. Remember the term “frenulum linguae”? This is the webbing that attaches the tongue to the base of the jaw. If you lift your tongue and open your mouth, you should be able to reach in your mouth and pinch this membrane (now go wash your hands). This part of the body determines how far or high a person can stick out their tongue. For some people, this webbing can severely restrict your tongue’s movement. Have you ever heard the term “tongue-tied”? The frenulum linguae membrane is the cause of that. In some people, it is almost nonexistent and in others, it is very dominant and causes the tongue to roll instead of extending out when they try to stick their tongue out. Think of someone like Gene Simmons, that guy from Kiss in the crazy face paint. Google his name and you’ll see what I mean. Obviously, if you can stick your tongue out, then you have space for it to get done. For some people, the frenulum will restrict some motion, but they can still get it done, sometimes at a slight angle. For other people, the frenulum will almost reach the tip of the tongue and at this point, it’s almost certain that if you did do it, there is no way it would ever be comfortable. Sorry dog, this just isn’t for you. “But Reek! I really want my tongue pierced!” Well don’t get your panties in a bunch just yet, you have options. Aside from the standard tongue piercing, there are variations like the venom and snake eyes, which we briefly touched on, but let’s dive in deeper.

Venom Tongue Piercing

Let’s discuss the venom first. The venom may spark images of Tom Harding being covered in black alien goo, but within the context of tongue piercing, can mean one of two things. It can mean two separate tongue piercings equally spaced apart horizontally or (for you cheap bastards) one staple bar going across the tongue. Let me be more specific. The venom is more of a look than a piercing. If a person sticks their tongue out and you see two studs next to each other, that’s a venom tongue piercing, but how you get that look can be done two ways:

  1. Two standard tongue piercings done next to each other horizontally, as to avoid the frenulum, or
  2. One piercing done with a staple bar across the tongue.

The advantage of doing two separate bars is that these piercings do not go across the tongue, so it doesn’t impede the natural motion of the tongue. Your tongue is two separate muscles wrapped in membrane, so if you pierce each muscle there is no restriction of motion. The downside is that now you must heal from two piercings instead of one and that you have more metal taking up space in your mouth. The advantage of using a staple bar, hold on, let me explain what a staple bar is. Take a stapler, open it, take the staples out and flip it upside down, see how it makes a “U” shape? That is a staple bar, just a bit longer in the bottom portion. These types of bars are used for surface piercings because the 90-degree bend heals much better than a curved barbell. OK, now we have that out of the way. When we do a venom piercing using a staple bar, one piercing is done across the tongue so there is less healing that must happen. Because we use this bar it can restrict some motion of the tongue but leaves the underside of your tongue alone. Personally, I prefer this method. Like I said, the venom is more of a look than a piercing and this gets the look done in one piercing rather than two and with internally threaded jewelry allows for a variety of gems and stones to be used for decoration. If, by chance, you do have swelling issues I can easily use spacers to make the piecing comfortable.

Snake Eyes Tongue Piercing

Now on to the snake eyes. Usually used as a term to explain a lot of money lost at the crap tables in Las Vegas (my hometown), in piercing terms it means one curved barbell that goes across the tip of the tongue with a stud on each side. This is a different look and if its your thing then its your thing. It lends itself to a certain “shock and awe” because of its unique appearance. Much like a staple bar venom, it can restrict some motion of the tongue because it’s done across rather than through the tongue but to each their own. With this piercing, you do have to be a little more cautious. I say this because the tip of the tongue controls a lot of your speech, so if you do get it be aware that the clanging of the metal against your teeth can take some getting used to, not only that but you may want to get into the habit of tightening the balls on because they may get loose from so much movement.

What Are the Side Effects of Tongue Piercing?

Unfortunately, as with all piercings, there can be unintended side effects from piercing your tongue. Let’s touch on the main list first, and then talk about what can be done to mitigate these effects. The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) reports the list of possible side effects for tongue piercing as including infections, taste loss, nerve and gum damage, as well as possible chipped or lost teeth from accidental impact of the jewelry. According to a reliable study on tongue pierced people, there are adverse long-term dental side effects associated with tongue piercing especially increased incidence of enamel fissures, enamel fractures, and gingival recessions. Additionally, the AGD warns of the possibility of periodontal disease, as a result of ulcers in the oral cavity that may develop from irritation caused by the jewelry’s permanent placement in your mouth. When untreated periodontal disease or oral cavity ulcers can progress to oral cancer. Woah dude, you’re bringing me down, I know all this, and I still want to get my tongue pierced, so just tell me how to mitigate the side effects already!

How to Take Care of a Tongue Piercing?

Okay, ‘nough said, if you want to do an excellent job of caring for your tongue piercing here are some helpful health tips for oral piercings:

  1. Regularly rinse your tongue piercing with warm salt water or antibacterial (alcohol-free) mouthwash after every meal (or snack), and before sleep.
  2. Stay-on-track with your bi-yearly dental appointments so your dentist can inspect your tongue and mouth on a regular basis.
  3. Keep a lookout for signs of infection like redness, swelling, bleeding, discharge, a bad smell, rash, or fever and see your doctor immediately if you have any of these instances.

What are the Best Jewelry Type for Getting a Tongue Piercing?

Now that you know almost everything you need to know about tongue piercing, including the dangers, it will make sense to choose the best type of jewelry for keeping your mouth healthy. Titanium is the most frequently used jewelry for tongue piercing because it helps reduce the risk of oral allergy i.e. infection. However, medical journals recommend polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE) as a substitute for metal jewelry, which is more likely to cause infection with tongue piercing. That said, there are other types of jewelry that are considered biocompatible for tongue piercings (i.e. used in surgical implants and non-harmful to living tissue), and that includes gold, silver, and surgical steel.

Jewelry Options for Tongue Piercing

There are many options for tongue piercing jewelry, and the most frequently selected piece of jewelry is the straight barbell. If you’re looking to stylize a unique aspect of your tongue-piercing, this will revolve around your choice of beads on the end of the barbell. You can also choose the length of the barbell, but we’d advise you to consult your piercer, as they will know how much length you’ll need to avoid irritating your frenulum linguae and account for swelling. Everyone’s tongue and mouth are different, though many tongues piercings are done with a longer bar to accommodate for the initial swelling (which occurs immediately after your piercing). The good news is, you can replace a longer bar with a shorter bar after you’ve healed. Talk to your piercing professional about what’s best for your mouth, and check out the unique offerings at your chosen destination for piercings.

Final Note From Enrique, Professional Tongue Piercer

I think I’ve covered everything you need to know about tongue piercing, but if you do have any questions, please give us a call or shoot us an message. It’s always a pleasure, never a chore, even if I didn’t pierce you. I can’t tell you how many balls I’ve replaced, jewelry I’ve swapped, or even just take a look to make sure healing is going along as it should. The bottom line is: make sure your tongue piercing heals well, and has the look you are going for. And I am always available to assist any way I can.

I hope to see you soon for all your piercing needs!


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