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The Truth About Tongue-Splitting and Oral Jewelry


Teenager girl showing her piercing in her tongue

Are you thinking about getting an oral piercing or having your tongue split?

Before you get carried away by visions of how cool your smile will look with a modification, make sure you understand the facts. Procedures such as tongue-splitting and oral jewelry can have a dangerous impact on your oral health.

Why Do People Split Their Tongues or Get a Piercing?

It usually boils down to the right to self-determination and self-expression.

Getting an oral piercing is often a method of rebelling against societal norms while still playing it safe. Oral alterations aren’t as visible as, say, hair dyeing or tattoos on your hands. You could show off your new ‘body art’ only to those who would genuinely appreciate it.

It’s understandable that you may be very tempted to express your individuality through oral alterations. But after considering the truth about such procedures, you’ll probably agree that there are safer ways to let your style make a statement.

The Risks of Oral Piercings

An oral piercing puts you at risk for the following problems:

  • Allergic reaction

  • Swallowing or inhaling a loose piece of jewelry

  • Infection

  • Inflammation and swelling at the piercing site that can interfere with breathing or swallowing

  • Drooling

  • Damage including gum recession and chipped teeth

  • Greater risk of injury to soft tissues in your mouth

Oral piercings are common and many people have no issues with their piercing. You do have the right to get your tongue or lip pierced, but doctors and dentists urge caution. If you choose to get oral jewelry, you must be prepared to assume the responsibility for keeping it clean and safe.

An oral piercing needs to be cleaned daily. Rinse your mouth after every meal to keep food from packing in around the pierced spot. Examine the site every single day for signs of abnormal swelling or scarring. Maintaining excellent oral hygiene in the rest of your mouth will reduce bacterial buildup around your piercing.

Also check the tightness of your piercing on a regular basis. If it comes loose, you run the risk of swallowing it.

Remember: an oral piercing is not just a decorative piece of art you can afford to set-and-forget. You must be capable of and determined to take care of it. If you can’t handle that responsibility, then an oral piercing is definitely not for you.

The Dangers of Tongue-Splitting

Tongue-splitting is not quite as common as oral piercings, but it is still a popular body modification.

You should know, however, that it can be an even more dangerous alteration than oral piercings.

Some of the main dangers of getting your tongue split include:

  • Swelling that can be deadly if it closes off your airway

  • Speech difficulties (note that while this doesn’t happen to everyone, you probably don’t want to take the risk if your career depends on clear verbal communication)

  • Nerve damage resulting in numbness or a loss of taste

  • Surgical complications such as heavy bleeding, pain, and infection

Your tongue is highly vascularized which means it has a lot of blood vessels in it. It also houses some major nerves and an intricate network of muscles. Slicing your tongue down the middle is a very dicey modification since the resulting wound would be a serious one.

Not only is it risky to operate on your tongue in general, but many places offering this service aren’t necessarily up to the regulated standards maintained in hospitals and dental offices. A facility may look clean and make some claims about their success, but you’re still taking a huge risk by allowing anyone to split your tongue.

Your tongue will never be the same after a tongue-splitting procedure, even if you later choose to reverse it. The reversal process opens you up to the same risks and can leave you with a scarred and inflexible tongue.

Oral Piercings and Dentists in Tacoma

You’re probably not surprised to learn that given the risks to your oral health, dentists do not recommend getting an oral piercing or your tongue split in the first place!

Mouth tissues heal quickly, but that doesn’t make them ideal for piercings and such. The moist oral environment is prime for promoting bacterial growth. This puts surgical sites (like piercings) at high risk for infection. That infection or bacteria, in turn, can enter your bloodstream through the wound and cause potentially deadly inflammation in heart tissues.

Yes, dental health professionals take oral piercings very seriously!

If you already have a piercing, then you need a dental team who can help you keep it healthy. Contact Duke N. Bui, DDS, PS - Family Dentistry to schedule a checkup.

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