What are the risks associated with tongue web piercings? In this article we take a closer look at not only the pain, swelling, infection and other complications and dangers associated with an under tongue piercing but also explore the types of rings you can choose from as well as cleaning procedures and the options available when you want to hide it.
Tongue Web Piercing, Under Tongue Piercing or Tongue Frenulum Piercing
If you are one of those wondering “what is the piercing under the tongue called?”, then you can refer to it as a tongue web piercing, or simply under tongue piercing, but if you want to sound even more knowledgeable, tongue frenulum piercing is yet another accepted under the tongue piercing name that you can go with.
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As the name suggests, an under tongue piercing involves sticking a needle or cannula – followed by the jewelry of course – into the thin, soft and membranous, flap of connective tissue found below the tongue. The tissue connects the floor of the mouth with the tongue and can easily be seen when your tongue is raised and as we grow older, it keeps increasing in size.
Because the tongue webbing has very few blood vessels, getting it pierced doesn’t result in as much bleeding as is common with typical tongue piercings. And is with most oral piercings, this type of piercing heals relatively quickly.
Although this piercing appears more popular among female piercees, judging from the pictures available on the web, it is just as much acceptable for male counterparts in contemporary society.
Getting the right information is the key to avoiding an unfavorable experience with tongue-webbing piercings. Your piercer should go over the basics with you to let you know what to and what not to expect. That way, you can respond accordingly if any signs of infection and other complications are observed.
Tongue Web Piercing Risks
While under tongue piercing is associated with relatively low risks, it is not without its dangers, so to speaks.
Of these, infection stands out as the most. An infection is likely if the piercing procedure is not done professionally, proper oral hygiene [see a subsequent section for more on how to clean this type of piercing], is not done throughout the healing process,
Although rare, rejection is yet another issue that is often faced by piercees. This happens in the event that the body perceives the jewelry as a foreign object and thus attempts to lock it out by pushing it out of the skin and then healing the area below it. When that happens, the jewelry is said to be migrating.
This would be a great thing for a wood splinter that accidentally gets stuck into your skin, but not for a piercing jewelry which is intended to stay in.
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On a good note though, tongue web piercing are not high-risk piercings in as far as rejection and migration is concerned. Surface piercings that are very close to the skin e.g. eyebrow, sternum, Madison, and nape piercings are the most susceptible to rejection.
Because of the risk of migration and rejection, the piercer may decide to not continue with the tongue frenulum piercing if s/he feels that your frenulum is too small. This is especially likely if you are aged below 18 years. In such a case, you should consider waiting a couple years or so.
While you may get the urge to do the tongue web piercing at home, it is advisable to seek professional service from a board certified piercing studio.
Remember that DIY risks involved – if you don’t exactly get right – more than justifies the small fee involved in working with a professional piercer. You don’t want to end up with damaged saliva glands do you?
Tongue Web Piercing Pain
Tongue piercing doesn’t involving any numbing which means that you will inevitably feel some pain. Pain is a rather subjective subject, with different people reacting to it differently. Even then, most people find the level of pain associated with under tongue piercing rather minimal. This is especially true given the fact that lingual frenulum has very few nerve endings.
It is of course expected that you will feel some pressure as the clamp holds on to the tongue frenulum during the piercing process and that may make it feel a bit uncomfortable.
Other than that momentarily pinch as the needle and the jewelry goes through, you are not likely to experience anything more than just a slight tenderness as the piercing heals in the coming week or so.
We scouted around for stories from real people who have had their tongue web pierced to get their insight into the degree of pain they had to endure during and after the process, and on a scale of 1 to 10, we arrived at an average score of 4.2 which is not that bad.
For tongue web piercing vs. smiley piercing pain, we couldn’t find enough information to make a conclusive judgment, but significantly sharp pain is not expected for both types of piercings since they involve piercing through the connective tissues called frenula which have very few nerve endings.
Tongue Web Piercing Healing
Tongue web piercing healing time varies from one person to another but most takes between 8 and 10 weeks. Some people however heal in as low as 2 weeks. You can expect slight bleeding, swelling, and tenderness during the first few days of the healing phase.
As you piercing heals, it is very important that you exercise proper oral hygiene and aftercare measures as well as keep low-risk behavior (e.g. refraining from oral sex and kissing) [more on this in a subsequent section on aftercare].
It is also advisable that you leave your jewelry intact during the entire healing process. Exception however hold for issues with the jewelry size or material, but even then, you should not change the jewelry (or get a retainer for replacement) without the advice and supervision of your piercer.
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Tongue Web Piercing Swelling
The tongue webbing piercing process involves sticking a needle through some tissue and is such expected that you will experience not only a bit of tenderness as explained above but also some degree of swelling.
You can cut down on the swelling by placing some crushed or chipped ice into the mouth and allowing it to melt gradually throughout the day.
Over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (brand names: Advil or Motrin), Naproxen (brand names: Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn, Aleve, and Mediproxen) can also help to lessen the swelling.
After recession of the initial tongue web piercing swelling, you are likely to notice some whitish yellow secretion. This is normal and is not a cause of concern, but it should not be confused with green or red fluid secretion that occur when a piercing gets infected. This warrants professional help. [Read more about infections in a subsequent section of this article].
If your tongue webbing is still swollen after a couple weeks, it is also a good idea to seek professional evaluation and assistance from the piercer.
In addition to the typical swelling that typically occur with this type of piercing, stories of swollen glands after getting the lingual frenulum pierced are also not unheard of. This can happen if the salivary glands gets punctures during the piercing process.
This may cause more pain not to mention that it may also lead to permanent damage of the glands, leading to expensive medical treatment fees. This gives yet another reason why you should get your tongue pierced by a professional piercer.
Double Tongue Web Piercing
If your frenulum is large enough, you can have more than one under tongue piercings; one piercee I came across online, for example, has a total of 3. The term double tongue web piercing is often used to describe a pair of piercings located in the flap of skin below the tongue.
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You can have the second (and even 3rd piercing) done on the same day or wait until the first one has healed before getting the second one. It is entirely up to you to decide.
One good thing about oral piercings is that they tend to heal relatively quickly which means that you can have a double tongue frenulum piercing in as low as 2-3 months if you choose to go with the latter option.
Tongue Web Piercing Aftercare
Tongue web piercing aftercare can be divided into several Do’s and Don’ts as listed below:
- Place small pieces of ice in the mouth regularly to help curb swelling.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before touching the piercing or jewelry to avoid transfer of germs
- Exercise proper oral hygiene. You will in particular want to rinse your mouth after taking your meals (or any food in between), and before going to bed. [more details in the “how to clean tongue web piercings” section]
- Take soft foods such as ice cream, mashed potatoes, protein shakes, etc. until you have healed.
- Avoid playing with the jewelry: This helps to avoid irritation which may then lead to slow healing and other complications.
- Avoid talking too much during the healing process: This puts stress on the healing piercing and may be a precursor to scarring, migration, and other complications.
- Avoid oral sex and kissing till the pierced area has fully healed. Otherwise you risk getting an infection as a result of the ensuing bacterial exposure.
- Stay away from alcohol: Alcohol has a drying effect which does a pierced tongue frenulum no favor. It is known to cause irritation and significantly delay the healing process. So stay away from alcoholic drinks as well as alcohol-based mouthwash.
- Avoid smoking: Tobacco products are as well known to delay healing of wounds and tongue webbing piercings are not an exception. In fact the mouth-drying effect of smoking makes it even worse for oral wounds. Most experts also recommend staying away from marijuana as well.
- Avoid biting on your nails and other stuff g. pencils, chewing gum, etc. this will help to minimize the chances of bacterial transfer to the mouth.
- Avoid sharing of drinks or foods with anyone else.
Consider integrating all these best practices into your care regime and you will increase the chances for complications-free healing process.
How to Clean Tongue Web Piercing
It goes without saying that you should ensure proper hygiene as the piercing heals, especially given the fact that your body treats a piercing as a wound. This is the key to prevention of infections and other undesirable complications that may result.
Your piercer should give you cleaning guidelines, but just in case, here is how to clean tongue web piercing:
Sea Salt Soaks
Experts recommend using non-iodized sea salt solution – not the regular iodized table salt – for body piercings care. All it takes is rinsing your mouth with a commercial sea salt solution such as Recovery Piercing Aftercare Purified saline Wash Solution or H2Ocean Oral Rinse.
Alternatively, you can make your own homemade sea salt solution and use it to clean the tongue web as follows:
- Boil a cup of tap water to sterilize it (bottled water can as well do).
- Add ¼ teaspoon of sea salt (non-iodized) and stir to dissolve it
- Rinse your mouth out with the solution in the morning and evening and after every meal. You are looking at 4-5 times a day, but anything more than that is not recommended as excessive cleaning may cause discoloration and irritation.
- Repeat this every day until the wound has healed. You can however reduce the rinsing frequency to just after meals after the first couple weeks or so.
NB: If you have high blood pressure or heart condition, you will want to talk to your doctor before using salt for this purpose.
In addition to salt rinses, you may also want to consider swishing an alcohol-free mouthwash several times in the course of the day.
We have already mentioned it but will repeat because it is important: ensure that the mouthwash you use is alcohol-free (not alcohol based in other words). Biotene is one of the most popular brands among piercers, but any other mouthwash brand will just work fine so long as it is alcohol-free.
If you like, you may use both sea salt solution and mouthwash to clean your tongue web as the piercing wound heals. Sea salt solutions are nevertheless adequate by themselves and will be enough to protect you against infections.
Whichever option you chose, keep in mind that both the cleaning methods are intended for cleaning the piercing and the jewelry without taking it out.
How to Hide a Tongue Web Piercing
While piercings have their own beauty and style appeal, they may not fit in with every occasion, not to mention that some people e.g. your parents, boss, teachers etc. can have issues with them.
With this in mind, can you hide a tongue frenulum piercing? Yes! How easy is it? Very easy. Unlike other oral piercings, tongue frenulum piercing are usually hard for anyone to spot given their hidden location (below the tongue), unless of course you raise your tongue when speaking.
If you are concerned about someone seeing the “badass” side of you, you just have to avoid raising your tongue.
Some people also express reservations to show their piercing to their dentist, thinking that the dentist may have issues with it. In reality though, tongue piercings have relatively low dental concerns compared to other types of oral piercings and there is absolutely no reason to hide it from your dentist (unless of course he is your dad or relative).
If for whatever reason you cannot risk having your dentist see your piercing there is almost no chance if you intend to do so without removing it (particularly if it has not healed properly) since dentists do their job right inside your mouth. For a fully healed tongue webbing piercing however, you can safely remove the jewelry every time you have dental appointments.
Infected Tongue Web Piercing
We have emphasized time and time again how important it is to get professional service and take good care of your piercing during the healing period in order to avoid the ever lurking danger of infection. This may have left you wondering, “What does an infected tongue web piercing look like?”
Well, among the common symptoms of infection are:
- Red streaks spreading outwards from the piercing point
- Skin feeling hot to the touch
- Thick yellowish-green discharge.
- Increasing pain and swelling
While it may seem like a viable option to remove your piercing if you suspect an infection, you should not. Instead, visit your doctor for appropriate treatment. You may want to pass by your piercer’s studio for a second opinion about the likelihood that you have caught an infection.
How to Treat Under Tongue Piercings
Your best, and in fact the only recommended, course of action for treatment of an infection is to see your doctor. S/he will then prescribe a round of antibiotics if necessary, and probably some analgesics to lessen the pain.
Other than antibiotics and pain killers, there is nothing much to be said on how to heal a pierced tongue webbing infection. But even as you take the antibiotics, you may still want to continue with your aftercare regime, particularly sea salt soaks until the area heals completely.
Tongue Web Jewelry or Tongue Web Rings
Curved barbells or a captive bead rings (CBR) are the two recommended choices for tongue web jewelry.
For jewelry size, most experts agree on 16 gauge for captive bead rings. As for barbells and a slightly longer barbell to accommodate the swelling during the first few days after getting pierced.
Once the swelling has subsided, your piercer will change to a shorter length bar. Some piercers provide this as a free service (in fact most will), but some may require you to pay an extra fee for the change.
Tongue web jewelry, or “Tongue web rings” as some people may refer to them collectively, vary from are usually made from high quality metals or high carbonate plastics. Metallic jewelry are usually made or coated with either stainless steel, gold, or titanium.
You can take the element of being cool a notch higher by getting yourself a colored jewelry. You can order online in one of the many shops specializing in piercing equipment and jewelry or check with you local piercing studios.
In the UK, you can check with your nearest BlueBanana franchise or look online in stores such as jobananas, shoptattooedlady.co.uk, and bodyjewelleryshop.com. Notice however that listing these sites here should not be taken as a recommendation. Do your due diligence.