Tongue piercing

Last updated
Tongue piercing
Tongue ring.jpg
Healing2 to 4 weeks, total healing takes about 2 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.[ citation needed ]


History and culture


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.

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. [1]

From the turn of the 20th century, Western carnies borrowed many of their sideshow tricks from fakirs bringing to American and European audiences their first glimpses of tongue piercing.

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.

Tattoo Samy appeared in PFIQ (the first publication about body piercing) in issues #18 (1983) and #19 as the magazine’s first documented tongue piercing.

Elayne Angel, the first person awarded the Master Piercer's certificate by Jim Ward, body piercing pioneer and founder of Gauntlet, helped popularize this type of piercing.


Straight barbells with either plastic or metal beads are commonly worn in tongue piercings. Tongueringpictures.PNG
Straight barbells with either plastic or metal beads are commonly worn in tongue piercings.

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.


Tongues usually swell for a short period of time after being pierced. Tongue piercing.jpg
Tongues usually swell for a short period of time after being pierced.


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

"Venom" piercings: two tongue piercings placed horizontally Venom piercings cropped.jpg
"Venom" piercings: two tongue piercings placed horizontally

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. [2]

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. [3]

You may face the problems of speech impediments after having a tongue piercing. Like a double tongue piercing may restrict independent tongue mobility. There is also a risk of sensation loss. [4]

Adverse effects

See also

Related Research Articles

Prince Albert (genital piercing) Male genital piercing

The Prince Albert (PA) is one of the most common male genital piercings. The PA is "a ring-style piercing that extends along the underside of the glans from the urethral opening to where the glans meets the shaft of the penis." The related "reverse Prince Albert piercing" enters through the urethra and exits through a hole pierced in the top of the glans.

Lip piercing

A lip piercing is a type of body piercing that penetrates the lips or the area surrounding the lips, which can be pierced in a variety of ways.

Navel piercing Type of piercing located in, or around, the navel

A navel piercing is a type of piercing located through, in, or around, the navel. It may heal quickly and with no irritations, like an ear piercing, or may heal more like a surface piercing with the associated extended healing time. Healing usually takes around 6-9 months, or even more and as long as it is cleaned, it will heal nicely. Unlike most surface piercings, this is one of the few that do not normally reject, although the rejection rate is higher than non-surface piercings, such as ear piercing. The actual navel can only be pierced if it is an outie. For innies, the skin surrounding the navel is pierced at one or more locations. The most common form of navel piercing is through the upper rim of the navel. It is worn by many female celebrities including musicians such as Britney Spears, Janet Jackson, Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus, Avril Lavigne, Normani and Bhad Bhabie. Men also wear this type of piercing, an example being Slash, the guitarist of Guns N' Roses.

Nose piercing Piercing of the skin or cartilage which forms any part of the nose, normally for the purpose of wearing jewelry

Nose piercing is the piercing of the skin or cartilage which forms any part of the nose, normally for the purpose of wearing jewelry, called a nose-jewel. Among the different varieties of nose piercings, the nostril piercing is the most common. Nose piercing is the third most common variety of piercing after earlobe piercing and tongue piercing.


An earring is a piece of jewelry attached to the ear via a piercing in the earlobe or another external part of the ear. Earrings have been worn by people in different civilizations and historic periods, often with cultural significance.

Eyebrow piercing

An eyebrow piercing is a vertical surface piercing, wherein a twelve to eighteen gauge cannula needle is inserted through the bottom of the eyebrow and exits through the top of the eyebrow to permit insertion of jewellery. Those performing the piercing may use a pennington clamp to better guide the needle through the skin. A curved barbell is the most common jewellery inserted post-piercing.

Cheek piercing

Cheek piercing is facial body piercing through the cheek. The most common variation of the cheek piercing penetrates the facial tissue into the oral cavity. The usual placement is symmetrical on either side of the face, either penetrating or imitating dimples. The piercing can cause the wearer slight nerve damage and will result in "man-made dimples". An alternative is microdermal implants, placed in the intended dimple location. This method avoids drawbacks of full cheek piercings, which have a tendency to leak or secrete lymph fluid, which has a saliva-like texture and can create an unpleasant odor. Though microdermals do have a slightly larger chance to leave a scar than a piercing, they will heal eventually and be almost unnoticeable. The rate of infection is also lower in the long run. Because the piercing does not penetrate the cheek completely, there is little to no chance of tooth or gum damage. Microdermals are like a 'one hole' piercing, where the 'foot' of the jewelry sits below the skin and the decorative jewel or flat disc is above the skin.

Frenum piercing

A frenum piercing is a type of body piercing located on the underside of the shaft of the penis. A series of parallel frenum piercings is known as a frenum ladder. A frenum ladder may be extended to include lorum piercings, hafada piercings and guiche piercings.

In modern Western body piercing, a wide variety of materials are used. Some cannot be autoclaved, and others may induce allergic reactions, or harbour bacteria. Certain countries, such as those belonging to the EU, have legal regulations specifying which materials can be used in new piercings.

Body piercing jewelry is jewelry manufactured specifically for use in body piercing. The jewelry involved in the art of body piercing comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes in order to best fit the pierced site. Jewelry may be worn for fashion, cultural tradition, religious beliefs, personal symbolism, and many other reasons.

Barbell (piercing)

Barbell style piercing jewelry is composed of a straight bar and with a bead on each end, one or both beads unscrewable for removal and/or changing of the beads. Often one of the beads is fixed, either via epoxy or welding, so that only one bead is used to install or remove the jewelry. Barbell threads are usually right-handed.

Industrial piercing Type of double hole body piercing

An industrial piercing, sometimes called a scaffold piercing (UK/Ireland) or construction piercing, is any two pierced holes connected with a single straight piece of jewelry ; however, it typically refers to a double perforation of the upper ear cartilage specifically. Two piercings are made, one fairly close to the head the second further down the helix, on the opposite side of the ear . A vertical industrial piercing is also referred to as a suicide industrial.

Stretching, in the context of body piercing, is the deliberate expansion of a healed piercing for the purpose of wearing certain types of jewelry. Ear piercings are the most commonly stretched piercings, with nasal septum piercings, tongue piercings and lip piercings/lip plates following close behind. While all piercings can be stretched to some degree, cartilage piercings are usually more difficult to stretch and more likely to form hypertrophic scars if stretched quickly. Dermal punching is generally the preferred method for accommodating larger jewelry in cartilage piercings.

Nape piercing

A nape piercing is a piercing through the surface of the nape of the neck. Nape piercings are a type of surface piercing. They carry a high rate of rejection and migration, unless they are properly measured and placed. They may reject if they are not pierced properly, as they are in a part of the body that moves constantly and are easy to irritate, catching on clothing or other objects.

Clitoris piercing

A clitoris piercing is a female genital piercing placed directly through the head (glans) of the clitoris itself. It is a relatively uncommon piercing by choice because of the potential for nerve damage, and because women may find it too stimulating to allow the constant wearing of a small ring or barbell. It is often confused with the more common clitoral hood piercing, which pierces only the hood covering the clitoral glans, allowing the jewellery to make only occasional contact with the most sensitive area.

Rook (piercing)

A rook piercing is a perforation of the antihelix of the ear for the purpose of wearing jewelry. It is located just above the tragus on the ridge between the inner and outer conch with the piercing passing from the underside to the top of this ridge, differing from many ear piercings that essentially span between a "front" and "back" surface. Erik Dakota, a well known professional piercer and the individual responsible for originating and popularizing the rook piercing, is said to have named this modification after a shortened version of his first name. The piercing was first named in issue #4 of the magazine Body Play and Modern Primitives Quarterly around 1992 alongside the first printed reference to the industrial piercing, then termed "industrial ear project".

Corset piercing Multiple body piercings in two roughly parallel rows

A corset piercing is a body piercing that is pierced multiple times mostly side to side to look like a corset being laced up the body. Two rows of bilaterally symmetrical piercings are performed and can be composed of as few as four piercings or as many as the length of the area being pierced and the vertical space between piercings will allow space for. Due to the difficulty and risks associated with permanently healing single surface piercings, most corset piercings are intended to be temporary.

Tongue frenulum piercing

A tongue frenulum piercing or the tongue web piercing is a body piercing through the frenulum underneath the tongue. These piercings are relatively simple piercings, and heal quickly, although they do have a tendency to reject over time. Depending on the anatomy of the individual, this piercing may not be feasible. A web piercing may be considerably painful.

Body piercing Form of body modification

Body piercing, which is a form of body modification, is the practice of puncturing or cutting a part of the human body, creating an opening in which jewelry may be worn, or where an implant could be inserted. The word piercing can refer to the act or practice of body piercing, or to an opening in the body created by this act or practice. It can also, by metonymy, refer to the resulting decoration, or to the decorative jewelry used. Piercing implants alter body and/or skin profile and appearance. Although the history of body piercing is obscured by popular misinformation and by a lack of scholarly reference, ample evidence exists to document that it has been practiced in various forms by multiple sexes since ancient times throughout the world.


The apadravya, like the ampallang, is a piercing that passes through the glans. While the ampallang passes horizontally through the glans, the apadravya passes vertically through the glans from top to bottom, almost always placed centrally and passing through the urethra. It can be paired with an ampallang to form the magic cross. Off-center apadravyas are also possible, wherein the piercing is deliberately offset, yet usually still passes through the urethra. The piercing is often done on a slightly forward angle to the hips.


  1. Elkin, A., "Aboriginal Men of High Degree: Initiation and Sorcery in the World's Oldest Tradition"
  2. Association of Professional Piercers (APP)
  3. Go Ask Alice!, Columbia University’s Health Q&A Internet Resource, "Pondering the pros and cons of tongue piercing". Accessed March 19, 2016.
  4. "Tongue Piercings". RightPiercing - The Piercing Information Hub. Retrieved 2019-12-13.
  5. 1 2 Levin Liran; Zadik Yehuda (October 2007). "Oral Piercing: Complications and Side Effects". Am J Dent. 20 (5): 340–344. PMID   17993034.
  6. ( Levin, Zadik & Becker 2005 )
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Left*Tongue Piercing and Associated Tooth Fracture