The thought of a tongue piercing seems like a risky, big-deal body-mod, and a wince-worthy painful proposition. But is it? Could an oral piercing hurt less than biting your tongue?
A registered or licensed piercer will evaluate your suitability for a tongue piercing, check to be sure the placement you want will work, and then proceed to puncture the tongue muscle with a 14-gauge needle, from top to underside. Still on board? Okay, it could hurt. However, it might sting less than chomping down hard on your own tongue by mistake. It all depends on you – your pain tolerance, your relative good health, and the configuration of your tongue.
Most of your tongue is composed of muscles, glands and fat. Taste buds that send signals to nerves and blood vessels make up the rest. The hole in your tongue perforates mostly muscle, so after the initial sensation, the discomfort you feel will probably come from the swelling that follows the puncture.
Here’s how the process works. Once you’ve filled out the forms and reviewed your placement and jewelry options, ask all your remaining questions. After you have that brand new addition to your mouth, you won’t feel much like talking for a while.
Give yourself the optimum chance for a successful tongue piercing by setting up your session with care.
Identify a certified practitioner and a clean, safe studio. Be sure that you understand the risks and aftercare, and carefully select the first stud to place in the hole while your piercing heals.
The stud, or jewelry, should be sterile stainless steel or titanium to discourage infection. If you are allergic to steel, choose titanium. It should be a long barbell because your tongue tissue will swell after it is pierced and a too-short bar could lead to infection or dislodgment. It would definitely hurt if your tongue was constricted by swelling. In a couple of weeks, or sooner, when your tongue is back to normal, your piercer will swap the long barbell for a shorter one.
Before you head to the piercing studio, brush and floss thoroughly, scrape your tongue clean, and rinse your mouth twice. Use an antiseptic mouthwash to create as germ-free an environment as possible. You’ll probably want to eat a meal so you won’t feel faint or weak during the piercing. Once the piercing is in place, you’ll be eating a lot of ice pops and soft food, or drinking mostly smoothies until the wound heals and you get used to the sensations.
Some say pain is all in the mind, but try telling that to your sensitive tongue. You may have a low pain tolerance and just feel things more than average. You are the final judge of what you can handle, but it’s useful to know that tongue piercing is considered one of the least painful body modifications – piercing the cartilage of your upper ear, for example, is far more unpleasant. Expect the swelling that will happen around the site of the puncture to be less than fun – your tongue didn’t choose this personal statement so it will react just like any traumatized body part.
The good news is that tongue piercings heal in about two weeks, much faster than other types of punctures. The wound will be sensitive for two or three days, but as long as you are basically healthy, it will soon be just a slight inconvenience. Keep it clean and the swelling should subside noticeably in about four days. Then you’ll wonder why you bothered with all that nervous anxiety.
Here’s a tip that could minimize the pain and maximize the social cred of doing the deed: Take a couple of your besties to the piercing session. An Oxford University study shows that people with more friends have lots of extra endorphins and higher pain thresholds. Plus, they post your selfies for you after the event.
You control what happens after you leave the piercing studio. Aftercare is critical and the habits you develop will keep your tongue piercing healthy, even after it heals.
It’s sort of daring to pierce your tongue and that means you’ll get a lot of made-up advice and “wisdom” from people who have no idea what they’re talking about. Just smile and go about your business. You’ve got this.
Here are a few gems:
Body piercings aren’t so unusual any more, but they do stand out in some environments, so make sure your tongue piercing passes muster with your significant other and in the hallowed halls of your place of employment. Then do your homework. The only real and lasting pain you’ll feel is from a less-than-qualified piercer or your own lack of attention to hygienic aftercare. Those factors are totally within your control. Play it safe and your tongue piercing should be more pleasure than pain.