Tongue piercing culture has had historical precedents far longer than we imagined. Non-western cultures have been piercing everything from ears to lips to genitals. In many cultures, piercings offer a space for the beautification of the body.
For others, the piercings and adornments have a much deeper significance than social stature, social level, or societal position. In the West, piercings are either embraced wholly, as in the body modification communities, or it is frowned upon by more conservative people.
There is certainly still a societal stigma against all forms of body modification, except perhaps for ‘standard’ piercings that are only in fashion for women but are frowned upon when seen on males. In other cultures, again, the meaning of piercings varies.
The nomadic tribe of the Asmat in Indonesia is well-known for using massive objects for septum piercings. Some of their highest-ranked warriors use the leg bone of animals as adornments. The dried bone of slain enemies can also be used to show how fierce and skilled.
How is a Tongue Piercing Done?
If the tongue piercing is done by a professional, here’s what you can expect:
• The piercer will offer you a choice of having a mild anesthetic or not. Some people opt for an anesthetic; others don’t. But if you have a low pain threshold and this is your first, we recommend that you do.
• A hollow needle (16-gauge or thereabouts) will be used to create the cavity or space for the piercing. It will take about two to three seconds to get all of the needles through. This is the painful part of the process, comparable to getting a flu shot. The piercing takes just seconds.
• In general, the anesthetic injections will be more painful than the actual piercing. If you have anesthetic and it works fast, you wouldn’t feel anything when the main needle is inserted.
• After creating the space for the tongue bar, the tongue bar will be put in place immediately.
Who Should Not Take a Tongue Piercing?
A tongue piercing is not for everyone. Some conditions make it risky for people to get this type of piercing. In case you fall into any of these categories, it’s best to skip the tongue and get piercings elsewhere in your body. You can get a piercing on your nose, eyebrow region, and of course, your ears have several spots that can be modified with adornments.
Don’t get a tongue piercing if you…
• You happen to have a shorter tongue than usual. If you aren’t able to stick out your tongue that much, that’s why your tongue doesn’t have the necessary length for a safe piercing. While unusual, this does occur from time to time, depending on the person. Studios will tell you if it’s not so safe to pierce your tongue because the piercing will be too close to the gullet.
• Your tongue has plenty of webbing underneath. Webbing attaches the tongue to the base of the mouth. Artists are not allowed to cut or reduce any excess webbing just so the tongue will lengthen. It’s illegal to do so, and it’s not safe, either. Piercing a tongue with excessive webbing can cause immeasurable inflammation and suffering to the person getting the piercing.
• Your tongue has a large vein traversing the midpoint or center of the tongue. Hitting any large vein during piercing is a huge mistake that adds a ton of medical risk to the procedure. In some cases, the artist may perform a slanted or angled piercing to avoid the vein. However, it’s generally not recommended.
• You have a disease that affects the nerves, blood, etc. Paralysis issues can also be a problem. You must be straightforward with the piercer or artist about these conditions because if something happens during the procedure, you’re going to suffer the consequences, not him. Professional piercers will never risk a procedure unless they know that person can withstand the piercing 100%.
How Long Does It Take for a Tongue Piercing to Heal?
Surprisingly, tongue piercings can heal much faster than piercings on the cartilages of the ear. The average healing period is six weeks (minimum) up to eight weeks in some cases. However, this is only a guide and should not be taken as the rule. The exact recovery period will depend largely on the aftercare for the piercing.
Tongue Piercing Pain
Generally speaking, tongue piercing is one of the least painful of all piercings. Some people who have done it say that they didn’t experience any pain at all (zero on the pain scale). They said that they felt the hollow needle going in, but at the same time, it wasn’t as painful as they had imagined.
There is also a belief in the body modification community that the longer the person’s tongue, the less pain involved. This is probably because extended tongues tend to have less webbing, and there’s more space to avoid nerves and blood vessels during the piercing.
Tongue Piercing Infection
An infection can take place if you don’t follow the aftercare instructions of your piercer. You will be advised what to do for the long duration of healing. Watch out for symptoms like tongue odors, unusual discharges from the piercing site, signs of swelling and inflammation, and intense pain.
Since the mouth has a natural ecosystem of bacteria, an infection may arise. You will have to take antibiotics to control infection if it does manifest. Do not remove the tongue bar even if it’s painful. Only a doctor should remove it if he/she thinks that it is necessary to do so.
Conclusion: Think It Thoroughly
Getting a tongue piercing is nothing like getting an ear-piercing. It requires more thorough care, and there is a higher risk of infection because the wound is in the mouth. Don’t rush into it and find out if you are prepared for the period of aftercare and the possible risk of infection before having your tongue pierced. And if you aren’t ready, there’s always the option of having other parts of the face pierced instead.
FURTHER READING: Do’s and Don’ts for Tongue Piercing and Aftercare