A thousand years ago, the Mayan ruling class pierced their tongues for sacred blood-letting rituals. Today, tongue piercing is body art, a social statement, and (to some) an erotic enhancement. Whatever your motive, be smart, be sure, and be safe so that jewel at the tip of your tongue is a pleasure, not a pain.
Debate Over Tongue Piercing
As with most subjects in life, tongue piercing dos and don'ts are open to some debate. Some people will swear by one method of cleaning their piercing, others will warn you away from the very same method.
As you review the suggestions below, keep an open mind and realize you may have to experiment a little to find out what works for you. Some tips obviously ought to be followed, especially ones that have to do with sanitary methods. Others leave a little wiggle room. When in doubt, ask your piercer for advice. If you are careful and choose a true licensed professional, you should be in good hands. If you begin to show signs of any complications, see your physician straight away.
Tongue Piercing Dos
There are plenty of things you can do before getting your piercing to make it the best experience possible.
- Choose a qualified professional: Take your time choosing a piercing professional. Look for someone who's licensed and works out of a clean shop or office.
- Get recommendations: Ask other people with tongue piercings about their experience and who they would recommend.
- Know the procedures: Study up on sterile procedures so you can be sure your piercer is following them as well. Watch to be sure that the needle prepared for your piercing, as well as the other equipment, came from a sealed sterile package.
- Be prepared: Go with a friend who's getting a tongue piercing and watch the procedure if it's permitted. Then you'll truly understand what's going to happen when you get yours.
- Get rid of germs: Clean your mouth thoroughly before you have your tongue pierced. This includes brushing your teeth, gums and tongue, as well as flossing and gargling with antiseptic (such as Listerine) mouthwash.
- Choose the right jewelry: Take your time selecting your initial jewelry. Your piercer should be able to guide you to a barbell with a sufficiently long post to accommodate the initial swelling that's bound to happen.
- Ask questions: Ask plenty of questions before the piercing takes place. You are not bothering your piercer by making sure you understand all that is entailed, and a true professional will not mind if you double check that they are following proper sterile procedures. Once your tongue is pierced, you may not feel like speaking as much.
- Relax: Relax as much as possible in preparation for the moment of truth. A little self-hypnosis can help dull the pain.
- Follow instructions: Listen carefully to your piercer's instructions about aftercare, and try to get them in writing if possible.
- Reduce pain: Use ice to reduce the initial swelling and dull any residual pain. You can also use ibuprofen or acetaminophen if the pain is a bit more than you expected.
- Eat soft foods: Stick to soft foods for the first 24 to 48 hours after your piercing. You'll be less apt to hurt the piercing, and you'll find it easier learning to eat with your new jewelry to contend with.
- Keep your mouth clean: Brush your teeth after every meal, and rinse your mouth out.
- Rinse frequently: Aside from cleaning after meals, rinse your mouth out several additional times each day. This can be done with a very mild salt water solution, or an alcohol-free product like Tech2000 or Biotene.
- Wash hands often: Be sure to wash your hands before each cleaning session, and every time you need to touch your barbell.
- Watch for infection: Watch for signs of infection. These can include excessive heat and redness, severe swelling, fever, pus, repeated sharp pains or persistent throbbing. If your instincts are telling you something is wrong, have it checked out by a medical professional.
- Go for a follow up visit: After the swelling resides, return to your piercer and have him/her fit your tongue with a smaller barbell that will provide a properly snug fit.
Tongue Piercing Don'ts
Avoiding certain things can help ensure your procedure and aftercare are done properly and can prevent complications.
- Don't go the DIY route: Don't let one of your buddies do the piercing for you. You definitely need a professional for this one. Don't attempt to carry out this piercing on yourself, either, no matter how many times you've watched one of your friends get one.
- Avoid unhygienic shops: Don't have your piercing performed in a shop that's obviously not clean.
- Don't get low quality studs: Don't choose jewelry made from anything other than surgical grade stainless steel for your initial piercing. This material will give you the least amount of trouble while you're healing.
- Don't choose a barbell with a short post: You'll need the extra length of a longer post to accommodate swelling immediately after the procedure. Your piercer should be able to advise you.
- Avoid contact: After the procedure, resist the urge to rub your new jewelry around your mouth and against your teeth as this can be very damaging. Resist the urge to touch your jewelry with your fingers as well. This can import more germs to the open wound.
- Avoid aspirin: Don't take regular aspirin for the pain since it can prolong bleeding. Use Tylenol or Advil instead.
- Avoid oral contact: Don't kiss or engage in other oral activities until you are completely healed.
- Don't smoke: Smoking will irritate the wound.
- Don't drink acidic or alcoholic beverages: Avoid beverages with alcohol or those that are acidic in nature while the wound is still healing. Again, this can cause irritation.
- Avoid harsh mouthwash: Don't rinse with a harsh commercial mouthwash such as Scope or Listerine, as they can definitely irritate your piercing.
- Don't ignore aftercare: Don't forget to follow a regular aftercare regimen as directed by your piercing professional. Failure to do so could result in a serious infection.
- Don't forget to watch for infection: Don't ignore the warning signs of a building infection. Doing so could land you in the hospital if the infection spreads through your blood stream.
Mind Your Tongue
That's a fairly large list of tongue piercing dos and don'ts to keep in mind. However, they may make getting a tongue piercing seem like a bigger deal than it really is. You may never experience any significant problems at all after your piercing, but it's good to know how to keep your healing period on track.