If you're thinking about getting a tongue piercing then you'll want to know how to prepare for one and what to expect from the procedure itself as well as how to look after it during the healing process.
Choose A Good Piercer
The best way to find a piercer is based on recommendation. Most piercing studios also have a portfolio of work.
The tongue piercing is a fairly "routine" piercing so I wouldn't worry too much about the piercer getting it right. Still, it's a good idea to speak to your piercer beforehand to make sure you are going to be comfortable with them doing it.
Things To Buy
Before you even get the piercing, make sure to buy the following things:
- new toothbrush
- sea salt
- chlorhexidine mouthwash
On The Day Of The Piercing
It actually doesn't matter if you've eaten before the piercing but I think it's a good idea and basic common courtesy to brush your teeth (and your tongue!) before going to see your piercer.
The Piercing Itself
Most piercers will give you some mouthwash in order to sterilise the environment inside your mouth.
Next they will check your tongue to make sure it can be pierced. Some people cannot have a tongue piercing for anatomical reasons. For example, they may have an extremely short tongue and tongue web or they may have veins in the tongue that cannot be avoided.
Then they will take a pen and mark a dot on your tongue. Now is the time to check the placement in the mirror to make sure that you are happy with it. Don't be afraid to say you want it pierced in a slightly different spot and then make sure you are happy before you go any further.
Your piercer will then put some clamps onto your tongue and check the placement carefully. Some people say that the clamps hurt more than the actual piercing but in my case I barely felt them.
You will be asked if you are ready and then your piercer will usually ask you to breathe in and then out. On the out-breath, they will push the needle through your tongue (either from top to bottom or from bottom to top - it doesn't matter which). This is a surreal experience but not all that painful at all. They will then quickly remove the needle and place the jewelry in your new piercing.
The jewelry will be a long tongue bar of around 20mm in length. It has to be this long because your tongue will soon start to swell (usually around 24 hours later) and will remain swollen for around a week but this can last up to two or three weeks in some cases.
Tongue Piercing Aftercare
The tongue piercing is the fastest healing piercing. This is due to your saliva which promotes healing. It takes around four to six weeks to heal. In my case it took around eight weeks.
Frankly, many people have healed this piercing successfully without using any mouthwashes at all. Personally, I recommend swishing your mouth with a sea salt solution at least once per day. You can make this by taking a pinch of salt and adding hot water (as hot as you can withstand without injuring yourself) in a cup.
If you like, you can use an anti-bacterial mouthwash every now and again. I personally used chlorhexidine mouthwash each morning. Occasionally, for added piece of mind, I would use a product like Listerine. Listerine contains alcohol which kills harmful bacteria and viruses but some people say you shouldn't use it because the alcohol will dry out your mouth. Personally, I don't see any harm in using it occasionally.
The first few days after getting your piercing you will find it difficult to eat. Some people are eating solid food immediately but most have to wait a day or two and sometimes longer. Try to keep your tongue still while eating - difficult but possible! I recommend smoothies for the first week and when eating solid food to take your time and eat slowly. A lot of people give up and take their piercing out at this point but you will get through this sacrificial period!
When brushing your teeth, remember to brush your piercing too. You can do this by brushing the top-side of your tongue. You can clean the underside of your piercing by putting the lower ball on top of your lower lip and brushing it there.
After your swelling goes down you can get the bar downsized for a smaller one.
Learning To Live With Your New Tongue Piercing
The tongue piercing is unique because it is the only one where an actual muscle is pierced. That is part of the reason why it heals so quickly. Unfortunately, even if you've had the piercing for a whole year, it can close up very quickly if you leave it out. I recommend keeping it in at all times or using a retainer if you don't want to wear regular steel or titanium jewelry.
Especially when you have the longer bar in your mouth, be careful not to bite on the bar. If you do, then don't be surprised if you chip a tooth!
Also, when your tongue is swollen, expect to have a lisp and find it very difficult to talk. However, after the swelling has gone down you should find that your talking returns to normal (although there may be the odd exceptional word that you find difficult to pronounce).