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|Healing||2 to 6 weeks, total healing takes about 7 months.|
A tongue piercing is a body piercing usually done directly through the center of the tongue. Since its decline in popularity around 2011, it has seen a recent upsurge making it now the second most popular piercing amongst young women aged 18-25 in 2019. It remains unpopular amongst men. Standard tongue piercings, or one hole in the center of the tongue, is the most common and safest way to have the tongue pierced.
History and culture
There is a history of ritual tongue piercing in both Aztec and Maya cultures, with illustrations of priests piercing their tongue and then either drawing blood from it or passing through rough cords designed to inflict pain. There is no evidence of permanent or long term tongue piercing in Aztec culture, however; despite the practice of many other permanent body modifications, it was done to honor the gods.
Piercing the tongue has a long history in religious and performance practices. Mesoamericans such as the Aztecs practiced this as well as other perforations as a part of offerings to their deities. Asian Spirit Mediums of the Far East practiced tongue piercing as an offering and proof of trance state.
Permanent or long term piercing of the tongue is part of the resurgence of body piercing in contemporary society. The ready availability of high quality, surgical steel barbell style jewelry is associated with the emergence of this piercing in the 1980s. As with many piercing innovations, the origin of this piercing is associated with Gauntlet, the first professional body piercing studio in the United States, formerly located in Los Angeles, California. Elayne Angel, the first person awarded the Master Piercer's certificate by Jim Ward, body piercing pioneer and founder of Gauntlet, is commonly associated with the promotion and popularity of this piercing. Also note that the tongue piercing is not gender specific. It was not created specifically for just a man or just a woman. Popular names for tongue piercing include tongue ring, which is a misnomer, as only rarely are rings worn in tongue piercings.
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Tongues are pierced with straight barbell style jewelry. Because of the frequent movement of the tongue, jewellery size and comfort is especially important. Barbells that are too thin are prone to migration, causing discomfort and irritation. Tongue piercings can often be easily stretched to accommodate larger jewellery. The initial piercing is often at 14 g (1.6 mm), but to avoid one or two stretching steps it is possible to pierce immediately at 12 g (2.0 mm) or even 10 g (2.4 mm). Some people later choose to stretch their piercing to 12 g (2 mm), 10 g (2.4 mm), 8 g (3.2 mm) or 6 g (4.0 mm) to protect against possible migration and to have a more stable 'snug' fit. It is possible to stretch further to diameters beyond 10 mm. The beads at the end of the barbell can be made of many decorative materials. "No-see-um beads", flat beads matching the color of the tongue, are sometimes worn to conceal this piercing, often in places of employment. Using appropriate colored and styled jewellery, and taking care while talking/laughing, it is possible to conceal the piercing.
The piercer will check the underside of the tongue for large blood vessels, sometimes with a bright light, and mark a safe placement for the piercing. The tongue is then clamped with forceps and pierced with a needle, usually from top to bottom with a piercing needle or from bottom to top with a cannula needle. Initial jewelry should always be considerably longer than will ultimately be required to allow for the swelling, which is common following the piercing. Within two days of getting the piercing the tongue can swell up to double its original size. This can lead to pain when speaking and eating, but this is not permanent. Piercers often recommend drinking cold beverages and sucking on crushed ice to help reduce the swelling. Some people find that taking Ibuprofen or similar anti-inflammatory drugs can greatly reduce the swelling associated with a tongue piercing. It is advisable not to drink alcohol, smoke, or eat spicy food until the piercing is at least partially healed (around two weeks), and alcohol-free mouthwash should be used after eating or smoking.
After the swelling calms down, a period of mild tongue and oral mucosa irritation can follow, sometimes discouraging the recently pierced person from keeping the piercing. Appropriate mouth washing, care during meals and some patience will usually be sufficient to come to a sufficiently healed state. After full healing the person is advised to replace the initial long barbell (to accommodate the initial swelling) with a shorter barbell. This second barbell is sometimes included in the price of the initial piercing procedure. It can be difficult for an inexperienced recently pierced person to replace the barbell with a shorter version, so often the help of the piercer is asked for. The second barbell is usually 2 mm – 4 mm shorter than the initial barbell, but should be adapted to the individual anatomy. After this replacement a second (short) healing period is observed. In case of absence of irritation, the further stretching procedure can be started.
Because of the tongue's exceptional healing ability, piercings can close very fast. Even completely healed holes can close up in a matter of hours, and larger-stretched holes can close in just a few days. The length of time for the hole to heal varies greatly from person to person – some people with larger-stretched holes (greater than 4 g (5 mm)) can still fit jewelry (albeit smaller) in their piercing after months or even years. It is generally recommended to avoid piercing in bodies under development or in people not capable of taking care of a recent piercing.
Placement of the tongue piercing
The traditional placement for a tongue piercing is along the midline of the tongue, in the center of the mouth. It is often approximately .76 inches (1.9 cm) or so back from the tip of the tongue. It is placed with the top a little further back than the bottom, which allows the top of the jewelry to lean slightly back, away from the teeth, and toward the higher part of the upper palate where there is more room in the mouth. It is also usually positioned just in front of the attachment of the lingual frenulum.
A tongue frenulum piercing is a piercing through the frenulum underneath the tongue, known as the frenulum linguae, and commonly the tongue web piercing. "Venom bites" is the term given to two tongue piercings placed side by side on the tongue, which are considered to be more painful than a regular tongue piercing through the tongue's center. Although the term "angel bite" is sometimes referred to as two piercings in the tongue with one placed right in front of another, the term is much more common for two Monroe piercings on either side of the face. There is also the "snake-eyes" which is one curved bar going horizontally through the tip of the tongue, it is mostly painless other than a mild amount of pressure. It is possible to use a (stretched) tongue piercing as a first step to tongue splitting.
Documented complications of tongue piercings have included blood-borne infections causing brain and heart abscesses (with some deaths); hepatitis B and C, HIV, tuberculosis, and tetanus infections; swelling of the tongue causing airway obstruction, swallowing or choking on loose jewelry, damage to gums and broken teeth. Common complaints include pain, scars, excessive salivation and damage to tooth enamel.
- Oral trauma, i.e., dental fracture and wear affects 14% to 41% of subjects with tongue ornaments.
- Recession of gingival tissue affects 19% to 68% of subjects with tongue ornaments. The alveolar tooth-bearing bone may also be involved, jeopardizing the stability and durability of the teeth in place and requiring a periodontal regeneration surgery.
- Higher prevalence of colonization of Candida albicans was reported in young individuals with tongue piercing, in comparison to non-tongue-pierced matched individuals.
- Elkin, A., "Aboriginal Men of High Degree: Initiation and Sorcery in the World's Oldest Tradition"
- Association of Professional Piercers (APP)
- Go Ask Alice!, Columbia University’s Health Q&A Internet Resource, "Pondering the pros and cons of tongue piercing". Accessed March 19, 2016.
- Levin Liran; Zadik Yehuda (October 2007). "Oral Piercing: Complications and Side Effects". Am J Dent. 20 (5): 340–344. PMID 17993034.
- (Levin, Zadik & Becker 2005)
- Zadik Yehuda; Sandler Vadim (August 2007). "Periodontal Attachment Loss Due to Applying Force by Tongue Piercing" (PDF). J Calif Dent Assoc. 35 (8): 550–553. PMID 17941300. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 September 2008. Retrieved 16 July 2008.
- Zadik Yehuda; Burnstein Saar; Derazne Estella; Sandler Vadim; Ianculovici Clariel; Halperin Tamar (March 2010). "Colonization of Candida: prevalence among tongue-pierced and non-pierced immunocompetent adults". Oral Dis. 16 (2): 172–5. doi:10.1111/j.1601-0825.2009.01618.x. PMID 19732353.