Tongue piercings are generally performed close to the center of the tongue, and far enough forward to avoid any serious risk to the teeth. The human tongue can be pierced in a variety of places however, and multiple tongue piercings are not uncommon. Veteran piercer Elayne Angel actually has five of them, and managed to perform the last four herself.
The human tongue has an amazing capacity for mending itself, and consequentially the initial healing time for tongue piercings can be short, sometimes taking place in as little as two to four weeks. Swelling commonly occurs during this stage, and tends to cause discomfort whilst speaking or eating solid food, so extra long barbells are normally inserted initially, and can be changed later when the inflammation has gone down. During the process of convalescence, avoidance of alcohol, smoking, spicy or acidic foods, and irritating alcohol-based mouthwashes is often recommended. Special mouthwash that’s alcohol free and formulated with sea salts or saline is easy to obtain and can be used frequently to assist with healing, especially after meals to prevent food particles from entering the piercing.
There are many variations on traditional tongue piercing including the venom (two separate tongue piercings placed side by side), and the snake eyes, which is a horizontal or “surface” type piercing. Tongue piercings can also be stretched successfully, and stretched piercings are sometimes used as a jumping off point for tongue splitting. The connective under-layers of the tongue, or the “webs” (frenulum linguae), can also be pierced, which is usually referred to as simply “tongue web piercing” or a “marley.”
For the most part the jewelry that’s worn in tongue piercings consists of a straight barbell with acrylic or metal balls or decorative ends. Sometimes a flexible bar can be used, or occasionally a retainer with silicone ends. Novelty items are also somewhat popular, such as vibrating tongue rings or those with silicone tickler elements.
Did you know that the Aztecs used tongue piercing as a form of ritual bloodletting in an effort appease the gods? These piercings were temporary and generally didn’t involve any jewelry.
Also, that story that we’ve all heard about a tongue being pierced wrong and causing somebody’s demise, is just an urban legend. There’s only one documented case of someone dying after getting their tongue pierced, and it was due to an already existing infection.