Whatever you want to know about tongue piercings, we’ve got you covered in this comprehensive guide. We’re diving into the piercing process, aftercare tips, and all of your most common (and not-so-common) tongue piercing questions!
What Is A Tongue Piercing?
The term “tongue piercing” encompasses any type of piercing on or under the tongue, though it most commonly refers to a single piercing placed in the center of the tongue. This location is the most common because it allows the piercer to easily avoid hitting a nerve or damaging the webbing, or frenulum, under the tongue (i.e. the part that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth). However, other placements and configurations of tongue piercings are also possible – even the frenulum itself can be pierced. Some people have multiple tongue piercings, either in a triangle or diamond shape, or they may have “snake bites” on their tongue, with a piercing on either side of the center of the tongue.
Getting A Tongue Piercing: What’s Involved?
First, you need to find a good piercer for your tongue piercing. An experienced professional makes all the difference in reducing pain and the risk of infection. Preferably, find an establishment that is highly recommended by your pierced pals and has a good reputation in your community. If you can’t get a referral for a skilled piercer, reference the Association of Professional Piercers’ database.
The cost of a tongue piercing depends on the shop and the location. Tongue piercing prices may be higher in metropolitan areas, but it’s often easier to find a reputable piercer in a city than in a rural area. Additionally, you may pay more for a special tongue ring or multiple tongue piercings done simultaneously.
Once you pick out your jewelry, your piercer will confirm that the tongue barbell is long enough to account for any swelling you experience after being pierced. They’ll autoclave the jewelry to sterilize it and prepare a sterile field, laying out the clamps, needle, and other tools needed to pierce your tongue. You may be given a special mouthwash to cleanse your mouth before the piercing is done.
Your piercer will then determine the best placement for your tongue ring. They may clamp your tongue before piercing it with a hollow needle that allows the jewelry to be pulled through easily with little additional discomfort to you. They will then screw on the bottom ball, and your piercing should be done! You may find the length of the barbell a bit uncomfortable at first, primarily due to its length. Once the swelling has subsided, you may see your piercer again to have your jewelry changed out for a shorter barbell that will be more comfortable to wear on an ongoing basis.
How Bad Do Tongue Piercings Hurt?
As with any body piercing, there will be some pain as the piercing needle passes through the flesh. But if you’re worried that a tongue piercing will hurt much worse than that time you accidentally bit your tongue while eating a bagel, you might be mistaken. A professional piercer using a sharp, sterile 14-gauge piercing needle will do the job quickly. Many people report that the most painful part of the tongue piercing process is the swelling as it heals. Of course, every person’s pain tolerance varies, but you can expect tongue piercing pain to be comparable to getting a flu shot or other injection.
Types Of Tongue Piercings
By far, the most common type of tongue piercing is a midline piercing, which passes through the center of the tongue. Other tongue piercing placements could be off to one side, horizontally through the tip of the tongue (also called a snake eyes piercing), or through the frenulum beneath the tongue.
Be sure to discuss placements and preferences with your piercer, and keep in mind that not everyone’s anatomy will be suitable for all tongue piercings. If you have a particularly short tongue or thick webbing and vein structures on the underside of your tongue, your placement options might be more limited.
Tongue Piercing Jewelry
When you first pierce your tongue, your piercer will most likely install a 14-gauge straight barbell. This is the most common and comfortable type of tongue ring, and it offers plenty of versatility and customization once your tongue piercing is fully healed.
After Your Tongue Piercing: Healing And Tongue Piercing Aftercare
A tongue piercing usually takes 3-6 weeks to fully heal. During that time, you should practice thorough tongue piercing aftercare with these 9 steps:
Keep Your Mouth Clean
Preventing infection is all about consistent, gentle cleansing; strong cleansers like alcohol-based mouthwash or hydrogen peroxide can do more harm than good.Rinse your mouth 3 – 6 times daily (especially after meals) with a special mouthwash like Recovery Oral Rinse or a homemade sea salt solution. Rinse for at least 5 minutes per cleaning 2-3 times a day, and rinse for at least 30 seconds after eating anything. If you don’t have access to sea salt solution immediately following a meal, you can rinse with plain water when needed. You just want to be sure to dislodge any food particles that have gotten trapped in your wound, or fistula, while eating. Continue brushing your teeth 2 – 3 times per day, gently using a soft-bristled toothbrush, and gently flossing once daily.
To make a homemade sea salt solution, buy sterile water or boil water for at least 5 minutes to sterilize it. Measure 1 cup into a heat-safe container and mix in 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. (Recovery Aftercare Sea Salt From the Dead Sea is a great choice.) Let the mixture cool to a comfortable temperature before use.
Eat Soft, Mild Foods for the First Week
Avoid hard foods that may irritate your piercing further and stick with soft foods like soup, yogurt, mac and cheese, protein shakes, pudding, popsicles, and other soft foods. Oatmeal, mashed potatoes, and grits may seem like appealing soft food options, but they can be sticky, so it might be better to avoid them. No matter what you eat, eat carefully, taking small bites and chewing slowly to avoid irritating your new tongue piercing.
Also, avoid spicy, acidic, and hot-temperature foods and beverages during the early stages of healing. Cold food and drinks may help soothe swelling.
Address Swelling Promptly
If your tongue swells severely, don’t apply ice directly to the piercing, but you can let ice chips dissolve slowly in your mouth to soothe your tongue and reduce swelling. Taking ibuprofen, sleeping with your head elevated, and minimizing talking will also help the swelling subside more quickly.
Your starter tongue ring should be long enough that your tongue doesn’t “swallow” your tongue ring if it swells. However, if you experience severe swelling and your jewelry becomes too tight, it’s important to have your piercer change it for you quickly. Prolonged excessive pressure can lead to necrosis (tissue death) and a tongue piercing infection. It can also cause hyper granulation issues, where you develop a red bump that may appear fluid-filled around one side of your fistula. It’s best all-around to get your jewelry changed quickly if it feels too tight. If you do have to get your tongue ring changed, opt for a soft BioPlast tongue ring or an acrylic tongue ring that’s less likely to damage your teeth if you accidentally chomp down on it.
Smoking can dry out your mouth and contribute to a tongue piercing infection developing. If you can’t give it up entirely, consider trying an e-cigarette to at least replace irritating smoke with water-based vapor. Suck gently as sucking too hard can dislodge blood clots that have formed in your fistula and make your tongue piercing bleed. If you experience any bleeding or cave and smoke a real cigarette, immediately rinse your mouth gently with a Recovery Oral Rinse or saline solution.
Avoid Other People’s Bacteria
Do your best to avoid introducing bacteria into your mouth during the 4-6 week healing process. That means no sharing drinks or food, no open-mouth kissing or oral sex, and no chewing on foreign objects like pen caps or your sunglasses. If you catch yourself slipping up, rinse your mouth with a sea salt solution for 30-60 seconds afterward.
Generally Stay Healthy
Do your best to stay healthy during the tongue piercing healing process so that your body can focus all of its energy on healing your new tongue piercing. In addition to following the piercing care rules above, try to get sufficient sleep every night; eat nutritiously; avoid alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs, aspirin, and emotional stress; and generally practice good hygiene (e.g. wash your hands thoroughly and regularly). You can further bolster your immune system by taking extra vitamin C and a multivitamin containing zinc, iron, and B vitamins daily.
Don’t Play with Your Jewelry
It can be tempting to roll a new tongue ring back and forth across your lips or to play with it in other ways, but it’s a bad idea.. You could accidentally bite down on your jewelry and chip a tooth, cause your jewelry to migrate or excess scar tissue to develop, or increase infection risk. Try to leave your piercing alone as much as possible.
Don’t Change Your Jewelry Too Soon
Give your tongue 4 – 6 weeks to heal before changing your jewelry, unless you’re having an allergic reaction to your starter tongue ring or your barbell is too short and is putting undue pressure on your healing fistula. If you experience either issue, get your piercer to help you swap out your tongue ring for either a solid titanium straight barbell or a hypoallergenic BioPlast tongue ring.
When changing your jewelry, purchase an internally-threaded tongue ring to avoid scraping your delicate fistula. You may want to get a new tongue ring that’s a little shorter than your starter one since starter tongue barbells tend to be extra long to allow room for swelling and may be uncomfortable to wear long-term. 5/8″ is a fairly standard length for a tongue ring, but the thickness of your tongue may require you to get a longer or shorter barbell shaft. Note that the longer you wait to change your jewelry, the easier it will be for you to do it by yourself because the walls of your fistula will continuously thicken over time.
Respond Quickly To Signs of a Tongue Piercing Infection
You don’t want to mess around with a tongue piercing infection. If you see thick, yellowish pus rather than just whitish lymph coming from your fistula and/or are running a fever, ramp up your tongue piercing aftercare regimen and contact your family doctor or dentist. They’ll determine if you do have an infection and provide you with antibiotics if they’re needed. You should not need to remove your tongue ring as long as you continue proper tongue piercing care while taking the antibiotic. In fact, it’s best not to remove your jewelry to avoid developing an abscess. If you remove your tongue ring, keep up with your sea salt mouthwash swishes as the fistula closes.
Changing Your Tongue Ring
Ideally, you should wait until your tongue piercing is fully healed before changing your tongue barbell. However, if you develop irritation on the bottom of your mouth because your starter barbell is too long and the bottom ball is constantly digging into the area beneath your tongue, then you may need to get a shorter tongue barbell put in after the initial swelling has subsided (typically within 1-2 weeks of being pierced).
When choosing a new tongue ring, you should first find out the exact length and gauge of your starter barbell. Straight barbells are measured from one end of the shaft to the other, not including the threaded ends or the balls. Your next barbell should be shorter than your starter one, so it fits comfortably in your mouth. A typical size for tongue rings is 14g 5/8″. Do not try to change gauges within the first 6 weeks; pick a new tongue barbell that’s the same gauge as your starter one. Later, once you’re fully healed, you can stretch to a larger size, if desired. If you are unsure of the gauge and length of your current barbell, speak to your piercer before ordering a new tongue barbell. Opt for non-reactive materials like surgical steel, titanium, and bioplastic to avoid adverse reactions to cheap metals.
Painful Pleasures offers the world’s largest assortment of tongue ring gauges, lengths, ball styles, and materials, so you’re sure to find what you need in our store, including flesh-colored piercing retainers for when you need to hide your piercing.
Potential Tongue Piercing Problems
Think twice before getting a piercing if the aftercare regimen sounds too rigorous for you. Without proper aftercare (and sometimes even with proper care), you could face issues like prolonged healing, excess swelling, and infection. If you suspect any of these issues, follow the tips in the aftercare regimen above.
If you suspect that you’re allergic to the metal your jewelry is made of, ask your piercer to help you switch to a titanium barbell. Titanium is the most inert metal and, therefore, the least likely to cause an allergic reaction.
For additional tongue piercing tips, be sure to visit our body piercing forum!
Tongue Piercing FAQs: The Most Common Tongue Piercing Questions
What Are Tongue Piercings For?
Tongue piercings are for personal enjoyment as well as sexual pleasure. Tongue piercings are popular because they’re easy to conceal and lend themselves to unlimited hours of fun.
If you have an oral fixation and are always chewing gum or foreign objects like pen caps, you’re an ideal candidate for a tongue piercing. As long as you don’t crack your teeth on your tongue jewelry—which is easy to avoid if you wear acrylic balls instead of metal ones—a tongue ring is a much healthier alternative to all the sugar you’d otherwise consume and the bacteria you introduce by chewing on foreign objects. After your piercing has healed, you’ll likely find yourself playing with it, rolling the top ball back and forth across your lips and twisting your tongue jewelry around in your mouth constantly. There’s plenty of innocent fun to be had with a tongue ring!
There’s also a sexual bonus that comes with tongue piercings. Many find that it’s fun to kiss someone who has their tongue pierced, plus they’re a great enhancement to oral sex for men and women alike.
Another thing tongue rings are good for is prepping for tongue splitting. It’s actually ideal to have a well-healed tongue piercing before you get your tongue split. Jump down to the “Can I get my tongue split if I have a tongue piercing?” Q&A below for more info.
What Types of Tongue Piercings Can I Get?
You have several options when it comes to types of tongue piercings. You can get a traditional tongue piercing, a horizontal tongue piercing (a.k.a. snake eyes tongue piercing), a venom piercing (a.k.a. venom tongue piercing or venom bites piercing), a tongue web piercing (a.k.a. tongue frenulum piercing), a tongue tip piercing, or a combination of these tongue piercings. Here’s an explanation of what each tongue piercing type entails with illustrative tongue piercing pictures:
Traditional Tongue Piercing
Typically, tongue piercings are placed vertically through the center of the tongue. Your piercer will likely insert either a 12g or 14g piercing needle (unless you request a larger size) through the top center of your tongue, but they may pierce through at a very slight angle, either to avoid the frenulum that divides the underside of your tongue or to ensure that the top and bottom balls are positioned in the roomiest parts of your mouth. Placement is important to prevent your jewelry from constantly rubbing against or pressing into one part of your mouth and subsequently irritating it.
Horizontal Tongue Piercing
A horizontal tongue piercing – also known as a snake eyes tongue piercing or just as a snake eyes piercing – is placed horizontally through the tip of the tongue, from left to right. Your tongue has to be thick enough to accommodate this placement. Even then, it can be risky. If a snake eyes tongue piercing migrates out, you could be left with a nasty scar or even risk losing the tip of your tongue. You also have to be more cautious of the impact on your teeth with a horizontal piercing than you do with a traditional tongue piercing. It’s best to ask for a PTFE barbell since it’s hypoallergenic, but a metal barbell with acrylic balls is also a good alternative that will be safer for your teeth than metal balls.
A venom tongue piercing is actually a pair of piercings. The placement is typically on either side of where a traditional tongue piercing would be placed, with one barbell put through the left-center of the tongue and another placed next to it on the right center of the tongue. Sometimes venom piercings are placed slightly further forward on the tongue. It all depends on the type of jewelry the person being pierced wants to wear and what placement their mouth will accommodate comfortably. For instance, someone who wants to wear captive bead rings in their venom piercings would likely need the piercings placed further forward on the tongue, as shown to the right.
Tongue Web Piercing
A tongue web piercing is a piercing of the web, or frenulum, that connects the underside of the tongue to the lower palate. It’s a horizontal piercing that’s usually done with a circular barbell or captive bead ring, although occasionally, a short straight barbell is used instead.
Tongue Tip Piercing
Usually, when someone gets their tongue tip pierced, it’s after getting a traditional tongue piercing. This is just another vertical piercing through the center of the tongue, but it’s done closer to the tip of the tongue. You’re more likely to damage your teeth with tongue tip piercing jewelry, so it’s best to opt for softer jewelry like a PTFE barbell or a metal barbell with acrylic balls. Alternatively, a captive bead ring is sometimes worn in this type of tongue piercing.
Other Tongue Piercing Configurations
The piercings listed above can be done in nearly any combination, as long as there’s sufficient space on the tongue and in the mouth to accommodate the additional jewelry. A standard tongue piercing may be followed by venom tongue piercings and/or another standard tongue piercing that’s placed in front of or behind the original one. Another popular combination is a traditional tongue piercing with a tongue tip piercing, as shown here.
Where Can I Get My Tongue Pierced?
Always go to a professional piercing shop or a tattoo and piercing shop to get your tongue pierced. This is not the kind of piercing you want to have done in someone’s basement, and you definitely shouldn’t try to do it by yourself at home. There are so many blood vessels and nerves in the tongue. You don’t want to risk damaging any of them, losing your sense of taste, or bleeding excessively.
How Much Does A Tongue Piercing Cost?
If you’re wondering if there’s a standard tongue piercing price, the short answer is no. Tongue piercing prices vary by location. Piercers in smaller towns can afford to charge less for tongue piercings than piercers in the city because it typically costs more money to rent shop space in a city. Also, you’ll likely find that tongue piercings cost more or less depending on where in the country you live. If you want special tongue jewelry or a pair of piercings, as with venom piercings, the cost of your piercing is likely to increase.
Are There Different Tongue Ring Sizes?
Traditional tongue piercings are typically done at 14g or 12g, but you can ask your piercer to use a larger gauge needle and jewelry if desired. Different tongues will accommodate different sizes better, but with patience and dedication, you may be able to stretch your tongue ring to size 0g or beyond.
Are Tongue Barbells Different Than Tongue Rings?
Most people refer to tongue jewelry as “tongue rings,” but it’s actually a misnomer. Straight barbells are the most common type of tongue piercing jewelry, so the correct term to use is “tongue barbell”. Actual rings may be used in the case of tongue tip piercings and some venom piercings placed further forward on the tongue, in which many people prefer to wear captive bead rings or circular barbells.
What Is The Usual Tongue Piercing Healing Time?
The mouth is one of the fastest healing parts of the body, so you can expect most tongue piercings to heal within 4–6 weeks. If you have a setback like a tongue piercing infection, it may take longer for your tongue piercing to heal. As long as you practice proper tongue piercing aftercare and are careful about the foods you eat to minimize irritations, your tongue piercing should heal within the typical tongue piercing healing time of 4–6 weeks.
What Does Proper Tongue Piercing Aftercare Entail?
Aside from listening to instructions from your piercer, here are some of our recommendations for tongue piercing aftercare:
- Rinsing your mouth 3–6 times per day with a sea salt solution like Recovery Saline Solution
- Eating soft foods during the first week or so, when your tongue is most sensitive (e.g. applesauce, pudding, yogurt, mashed potatoes, mashed ripe bananas, Jell-O, ice cream, rice, oatmeal, etc.)
- Not playing with your jewelry
- Not touching your piercing unless your hands are freshly washed or gloved
- Avoiding others’ bodily fluids
- Avoiding aspirin and other blood thinners (Note: If you take blood thinners for a health condition, tell your piercer before they pierce you!)
- Generally taking care of yourself (e.g. practicing good hygiene, getting lots of rest, drinking plenty of water, etc.)
For more details, see our tongue piercing aftercare tips above!
How Do I Know If I Have An Infected Tongue Piercing?
If you’re concerned that you may have a tongue piercing infection, you should see your piercer or go straight to your family doctor to see if you need an antibiotic. Oftentimes, though, what someone thinks an infected tongue piercing is just a typical reaction to the tongue piercing process. Let’s walk through the process and what could go wrong:
When your tongue is first pierced, your piercer will insert an extra-long barbell to account for swelling. Some swelling is perfectly normal, but if your tongue swells so much that the top and bottom balls are pressing into your tongue, see your piercer immediately to have a longer barbell inserted and avoid damaging the tissue. You may also want to ask for a titanium barbell, just in case the excessive swelling is due to an allergic reaction to the metal. Titanium is the most inert metal and, therefore, the least likely to trigger an allergic reaction. A Bioflex barbell would be another good alternative since PTFE material is also hypo-allergenic.
If the issue you’re experiencing isn’t that the barbell is pressing into both sides of your tongue, but rather that the top ball is “sinking” into your fistula, then you need a larger top ball instead of a longer barbell. You can replace your top ball with one of the pieces from our Dermal Parts Web store category, but you’ll need to know what size your current ball is, what gauge the post is, and if it’s internally-threaded or externally-threaded. That’s all good information to get from your piercer when you’re pierced.
It’s normal for the body to discharge lymph from a piercing site. Lymph is a clear, sometimes whitish, fluid that would dry to a crust in an external piercing (a.k.a. “crusties”). In an oral piercing, lymph can sometimes be mistaken for infection. Unless the discharge is a thick, yellowy substance, it’s more likely that it’s just lymph and not pus.
Signs of Infection
If you see the consistency of the discharge from your piercing turn to thick, yellowish pus, you’re running a temperature, and/or you see streaky red lines radiating out from the piercing site, then you may have a tongue piercing infection and should see your family doctor right away. It’s particularly important to deal with oral infections in a timely manner to prevent the infection from spreading to your brain and doing lasting damage. It’s best to keep the hole open by keeping jewelry in place until the infection clears up. By then, you should be able to keep your piercing as long as you practice religious tongue piercing aftercare. Always swish your mouth out after eating, as well as morning, noon and night.
Can I Get An Infection From Cheap Tongue Rings?
There are two kinds of cheap tongue rings: inexpensive ones made from quality materials and then there are cheaply-made tongue rings. Our tongue rings are the good kind of cheap tongue rings, meaning they’re affordably priced but made from quality materials that won’t cause adverse reactions. Watch out for cheap tongue rings made from low-grade metal with a high nickel content (the metal that’s usually to blame for allergic reactions). Also, be wary of jewelry only coated with titanium, as opposed to the solid titanium barbells we carry.
All that being said, cheaply made tongue rings are more likely to cause allergic reactions than infections. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get an infection from your jewelry, especially if it hasn’t been sterilized properly. If you purchase a good-quality tongue ring and have it sterilized before you insert it into your tongue piercing, you’ll significantly minimize your chances of infection. We offer a “Sterilize My Jewelry” option that’s a great add-on to any jewelry you buy from us.
Where Can I Find A Tongue Ring That’s Right For Me?
We offer a wide variety of tongue rings to fit your own unique style:
Tongue Ring Styles
Skull Tongue Rings – Shop for a variety of tongue rings with skull-shaped tops and designs.
Star Tongue Rings – Shop for classic star-designed tongue rings.
NFL Football Tongue Rings – Shop for football tongue rings featuring your favorite NFL team logos.
Major League Baseball Tongue Rings – Shop for a tongue ring featuring your favorite baseball team’s logo.
Picture Logo Tongue Rings – Shop for a variety of tongue rings with pictures, logos, and phrases. A few of our logo tongue rings are sold in bulk at marked-down prices.
Heart Tongue Rings – Shop for tongue rings with heart-shaped designs; you can also browse for heart-shaped tops for your tongue piercing barbell.
Jeweled Tongue Rings – Shop for jeweled barbells and tops that you can wear in your tongue piercing for a hint of sparkle.
All Tongue Rings — Explore our entire tongue ring store category for all varieties available to you.
Where Can I Get A Clear Tongue Ring Or A Tongue Piercing Retainer?
Easily conceal and retain your tongue piercing with our 14g–8g Clear Acrylic Piercing Retainer or our 14g 5/8″ Pink Acrylic Tongue Retainer. Acrylic body jewelry is safe and comfortable to wear in your tongue piercing.
Where Can I Buy Fake Tongue Rings?
It’s not impossible to pull off a fake tongue piercing. There are fake tongue rings available that are basically just balls with a hollowed-out area on one side that allows you to suction them to your tongue. You could also take a captive bead ring, remove the captive ball, and slide the gap over the tip of your tongue to make it look like you have a tongue tip piercing. It’s much more fun to get a real tongue ring, though!
Can I Get My Tongue Split If I Have A Tongue Piercing?
If you want to split your tongue, it’s actually ideal to have a pierced tongue first. A well-healed traditional tongue piercing will help prevent the back of the bifurcation from re-merging when your tongue is split. To learn more about tongue bifurcation and pierced tongues’ role in successful tongue splitting, check out our Tongue Splitting blog post.
How Do I Stretch My Tongue Piercing?
If you want to stretch your tongue piercing and are starting out with a standard 14g or 12g barbell, you may be able to insert the next size up with just a little gentle cajoling. You can also ask your piercer to help you change your jewelry when moving from one size to the next. They may use a taper, which you can purchase yourself to help insert the jewelry that’s a size up from what you’re currently wearing. It can be a bit awkward to get a taper through a tongue piercing without using forceps to hold the tongue out, so it may be best to just get your piercer to assist you.
As you go up to larger sizes, it will become increasingly difficult to jump from one size to the next. You can make the stretching process easier by adding a layer of latex stretching tape around your barbell, inserting it, letting your tongue adjust to the difference for a week or two, taking out the barbell, adding another layer of tape, and repeating until you’ve stretched up to the next size and can just insert a new barbell in the new size.
If you know from the start that you’d rather have a larger size tongue piercing, you can ask your piercer to pierce you at a larger size. They should be able to accommodate you, although there’s a chance you’ll have to wait for starter jewelry in a larger size to be custom ordered.
Additional Tongue Piercing Information
Learn more about tongue piercing, jewelry for pierced tongues, tongue piercing aftercare, and tongue splitting from the following pages: