How Bad Do Tongue Piercings Hurt?

Reviewed on 3/26/2021
Tongue piercing as a form of body piercing has become quite popular as a fashion trend.
Tongue piercing as a form of body piercing has become quite popular as a fashion trend.

Tongue piercing as a form of body piercing has become quite popular as a fashion trend. The reasons vary. Some do it for religious or spiritual purposes and some do it to gain acceptance in a particular social group. However, many have reported gaining confidence after the tongue piercing.

Yes, tongue piercings do hurt because this sensory organ contains nerve endings, muscles, and blood vessels. However, most people say it does not hurt as much as others imagine it to be. Many people who have undergone tongue piercings report less pain than ear piercing. Some have explained the pain to be like taking vaccine injections but the pain is lesser than the one felt during withdrawing blood from the veins for a blood test. Some say it hurts a lot whereas others say it is not that painful. The pain threshold or tolerability varies with individuals. Different people react to pain in different ways. The piercing professional usually take precautions to bypass the veins of the tongue during the procedure.

There is no numbing medicine given to ease the pain or discomfort during or after the procedure. There may be discomfort during the procedure and that is normal. The pain is typically bearable and may last for less than a week. The swelling also takes almost a week to subside. After a week, the pain is only felt if the piercing is pulled or tugged. Sucking on ice cubes helps alleviate the pain.

Does tongue piercing carry any risks?

Doctors advise against the practice of tongue piercing due to the potential complications it carries. There are reports of people with tongue piercing experiencing adverse reactions, such as:

  • Cold sensitivity at the lower first molar teeth
  • Trauma to the teeth due to
    • Tongue jewelry
    • Habitual biting or chewing of the jewelry
    • Barbell stem length (a type of tongue jewelry that looks similar to barbells in the gym)
    • The size of the ornament attached to the barbell
    • The type of material used
  • Fracture of some pointed parts (or cusps) of teeth
  • Irritation of the skin around the opening of the mouth, probably due to contact allergy or continuous flow of saliva
  • Dental infections due to accumulation of dental plaque
  • Bodily infections, especially in people with weakened immunity (infections as serious as infective endocarditis and brain abscess)

A study done on the long-term effects of tongue piercing found people with tongue piercings suffering more from dental carries and enamel cracks than the ones who did not undergo the tongue piercing.

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How to take care of a tongue piercing

Dental surgeons recommend taking certain steps to minimize the pain and the possible complications of tongue piercing. These include:

  • Taking a cold liquid diet for the first day and then a soft food diet for the next few days
  • Applying ice externally for 30 minutes five times a day
  • Mouthwash with Chlorhexidine five times a day for the first 10 days after the piercing
  • Cutting back on alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine-containing food items
  • Not chewing tobacco or gum
  • Limiting the use of the tongue for speaking as much as possible for the first week
  • Following oral hygiene
  • Observing the pierced area and rest areas of the mouth for possible signs of infections.

Contact the physician or dentist at the earliest if:

  • The pain and swelling continue for more than a week.
  • There is see pus, bleeding, increased tenderness, or accumulation of blood at the pierced site.
  • Fever develops within 1-2 weeks.

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References
Hunter D. Tongue Piercing Pain: How Much Do They Hurt? AuthorityTattoo. July 15, 2018. https://authoritytattoo.com/tongue-piercing-pain/

Laumann A, Holbrook J, Minocha J, et al. Safety and efficacy of Medically Performed Tongue Piercing in People With Tetraplegia for Use With Tongue-Operated Assistive Technology. Top Spinal Cord Inj Rehabil. 2015;21(1):61-76. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25762861/

Plastargias I, Sakellari D. The Consequences of Tongue Piercing on Oral and Periodontal Tissues. ISRN Dent. 2014;2014:876510. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24616814/

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