Tongue Piercings: Guide & Images

  • Written By Dan Hunter on February 15, 2019
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

The popularity of tongue piercings continues to rage on. If you want to gain a few instant cool points with total strangers, a tongue piercing is still a great way to do it.

There’s just something about them that makes you look slightly tougher than the average person. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re bold and brave enough to willingly have a needle stuck through your tongue.

If you’ve always been intrigued by the idea of piercing your tongue, but have never managed to summon up the nerve to do it, you can learn everything you need to know about this form of self-expression by reading our guide. It’s never too late to sport the look you’ve always admired.

What Is A Tongue Piercing?

A tongue piercing is just like any other piercing you can have done – the only difference is that it’s located in your mouth. That makes it a little unique, both in terms of how you care for it and also the challenges it presents. It’s not like any other piercing because it’s done in a spot that you use more than you do anything else on your body.

Whether you’re speaking, swallowing or chewing, you’re always using your tongue. It gets a workout and you want it to feel comfortable.

Although, all tongue piercings aren’t the same. There are different tongue piercings you can have, both in terms of where the piercing is located and what kind of jewelry is used.

Tongue Piercing Types

If you tell your piercer you want a tongue piercing, he’ll probably give you a blank look. That’s not enough information to go on. You’ll need to spell out what kind of tongue piercing you want, and there is a lot to choose from.

You’ll want to know which is which and if you’re confused you can always ask your piercer to show you pictures of each type.

Or here are the most popular types of tongue piercings to help you narrow your focus and be able to instruct the piercer as to what you specifically want:

Midline Tongue Piercing

This is a popular piercing in which one piercing is put right in the midline of the tongue. It is just like the side tongue piercing, except it’s in the center of the tongue, not off to one side.

Side Tongue Piercing

This is when your piercing is placed toward the middle of your tongue, but it’s not in the center. As the name tells you, it’s off to one side or the other. Whether you want it on the left or right side is up to you.

If you tend to chew your food mostly on one side of your mouth, you may want to have this piercing placed on the opposite side. It might make eating easier for you.

Snake Eyes Piercing

This piercing scores points for its cool name. Still, that name isn’t only used to describe this piercing because it sounds cool, it also perfectly sums up how this piercing looks.

The snake eyes piercing really does look like snake eyes when you show your tongue to people. Though it looks like two separate piercings where the snake eyes are located on the tip of your tongue, those two studs are actually linked together by a horizontal bar that runs inside your tongue.

While it may appear to be two pieces of jewelry, it’s really just one.

Horizontal Or Vertical Tongue Piercing

These piercings go in the middle of your tongue. They can go either vertical or horizontal, depending upon your preference. Like the snake eyes piercing, this one uses a barbell that goes inside your tongue and links the two studs together. The only difference is that the snake eyes piercing is at the front of your tongue and this one is in the middle part.

Some piercers don’t perform this tongue piercing because it does carry a fair amount of risk. As there are nerves that run throughout your tongue, you take the chance of damaging them if you get this piercing.

Damaging the nerves in your tongue or hitting a big blood vessel is a complication of tongue piercings that you want to avoid at all costs.

Frenulum Linguae Piercing

To understand what this piercing is, open your mouth and lift up your tongue until it is touching the roof of your mouth. Then look in a mirror and you’ll see a thin strip of skin that juts out and connects the bottom of your tongue to the floor of your mouth.

In this piercing, that small strip of skin, known as the frenulum, gets a needle drawn through it. It’s also known as a tongue web piercing. Some people’s frenulum won’t be thick or tough enough to hold the piercing.

These piercings tend to heal fairly quickly compared to other tongue piercings. However sometimes, people get them and all appears to be well, but over time they go through migration. Migration is where your body pushes the piercing slowly out of the mouth – it means the body is rejecting the piercing.

Tongue web piercings seem to have a higher rate of migration than other tongue piercings do.

Not everyone can get this type of piercing – it really depends upon the structure of your frenulum, and when you have this type of piercing, the only way to show it off is to open your mouth and lift up your tongue.

What Happens During A Tongue Piercing?

Before any piercer starts making holes in your tongue, they’re going to want to check it out first. In the case of tongue web piercings, they’ll look at your frenulum’s structure and make sure everything looks sturdy enough to proceed. If they decide you shouldn’t go ahead with it, ask them to explain why.

It can be a bummer to not be able to get the piercing you want, but there are plenty of other kinds of piercings you can get instead.

On the other hand, if everything checks out, your piercer may have you rinse your mouth first with an antibacterial mouthwash or they may skip that step. Some piercers like to do that and some don’t. Either way of doing it is fine. Whether you sanitize your mouth before the piercing or not, the most important thing is how closely you follow your aftercare directions.

Depending upon where on your tongue you’re getting the piercing, the jewelry may have to take measurements of that site to figure out what size of jewelry to use. If the jewelry isn’t long enough, it can pinch your tongue and create unnecessary swelling. That’s just one of the reasons it helps to have a professional doing your piercing instead of a friend.

The piercer may use clamps to hold your tongue in place while they do the piercing.

Tongue Piercing Pain – How Much Do They Hurt?

This is often the hardest question to answer about piercings, but it’s one everyone wants to know. While many people admire the look of tongue piercings, if they hear the pain level is off the charts, they quickly rethink how much they want this piercing. No one wants to be tortured to get the look they love.

Luckily, with tongue piercings, you don’t have to endure a lot of pain for the actual procedure. Getting the needle to go through your tongue is often a quick process for a well-trained professional. The initial pain of the piercing only lasts a few seconds and it’s definitely bearable. Some people would rather go through that piercing pain than the discomfort of the aftermath.

The real discomfort for some people comes in the days immediately following the piercing. Your tongue is a body part that is constantly in motion, and when something feels sore anyway, motion can make it feel worse.

If you’ve had your tongue pierced, everything you normally do with your mouth is going to feel uncomfortable. That can include eating for the first few days. For some people, that’s the worst part. They have to carefully eat and avoid some foods that will cause pain. It can feel like you’re on a terrible diet that first week.

On top of that, you’ll have to deal with any swelling and piercing site pain as well. Even kissing can be uncomfortable for the first few days.

By staying on top of your aftercare instructions, you can help ensure you don’t add the pain of getting an infection. That can up the pain level considerably, compared to what you’ve already experienced.

While those initial days after your tongue piercing won’t be pleasant, try to keep reminding yourself that the pain is only temporary. It won’t be long before you’ll be back to eating any foods you want and you’ll be doing it painlessly.

How Much Does A Tongue Piercing Cost?

Depending upon which type of tongue piercing you go for and where you have it done, the cost will fluctuate.

If you aren’t sure what type of tongue piercing you want, you should budget for anywhere from $30 to $100. That should be enough to cover any type of tongue piercing you’re interested in getting.

One factor that can drive up the cost of the piercing is what kind of metal you want for your jewelry. If you decide upon a high-end metal like gold, you’d better be prepared for a bigger charge.

If you don’t have allergies to any metals and you don’t care at all if you don’t sport a precious metal in your tongue, then you can buy one of the cheaper jewelry options.

What To Do Before Getting A Tongue Piercing

First of all, you should assess your general health. If you have a cold or the flu, you should wait until you’re feeling better to have your piercing done. Your body doesn’t need to be dealing with a piercing when your immune system is already busy trying to mop up your minor illness.

If you have diabetes, you should make sure it is well controlled and ask your doctor if it’s okay to go ahead with your piercing plans. Diabetics often have issues with wounds healing slower than the general public.

Your doctor may not be too enthused at the thought of you getting your tongue pierced. You should listen to his opinion whatever he tells you. You are paying him for his medical expertise.

If you tell your piercer about your medical condition, he may make you get a doctor’s note before he’ll do the procedure. A responsible piercer won’t want to risk his reputation or your health by performing a piercing that could be dangerous to you.

While your piercer will have all the basics covered, there are some things you should do to make your piercing day experience as stress-free as you possibly can.

The night before you have your tongue pierced, you should stay away from alcohol. You might think it would be cool to show up to get your piercing still drunk from the night before, but there are all kinds of things wrong with that scenario.

If you have your piercing done while you are still under the influence of alcohol, it could make your blood thinner, which gives you a higher risk of bleeding heavily with the piercing. If you’re still drunk, the sight of all that blood could make you panic or feel faint. Neither one of those scenarios would be fun for you or the piercer. Therefore, do yourself a favor and lay off the alcohol.

Instead of going out all night and partying with friends, you should make sure you get a great night’s sleep and that you’re well-hydrated the day before your appointment.

Before you head in to have your tongue pierced, you should make sure your teeth are well brushed and that your breath is fresh. That’s just common courtesy for your piercer. You’re going to be feeling some pain soon – there’s no reason to make him suffer along with you because you’ve got awful breath.

Finally, you should make sure you have a big meal in the hours before your piercing is done. The food can keep you feeling less queasy if there’s much blood or if you are nervous about the idea of having the procedure done.

Plus, with a tongue piercing, it may be a while before you summon up your courage to eat again. Your tongue is going to be sore and possibly quite swollen. You’re not going to feel like eating much for the first couple of days while it hurts so much. At least you can give yourself a big meal beforehand – it may be the last feast you have for days to come.

Due to how sensitive your mouth is going to be, you should have your refrigerator and pantry stocked with soft, easy-to-eat foods for the first week or so after the piercing. Good choices include things like popsicles, pudding, yogurts, noodles and mashed potatoes. Ice cream is also a great selection – letting it melt in your mouth may feel good.

Tongue Piercing Aftercare & Cleaning Guide

Before you walk out of the piercer’s parlor, you’ll have aftercare directions. Your piercer may give them to you orally or in writing. The best piercers will do both – tell you the instructions and hand you a written list of what you should do.

It may seem like you’ve already done the hardest part, just allowing the needle to pierce through your tongue. Though, you should never underestimate how important your aftercare is. If you do it correctly, it will help cut back on your risk of infections developing in your tongue.

Plus, you’ll save yourself a lot of worry if you’re not constantly trying to decipher what’s happening to your tongue. Trying to figure out if you’ve developed an infection is stressful and it’s something you could avoid if you just do what your piercer tells you to.

For a tongue piercing, your piercer will likely recommend a sea salt water rinse at least a couple times a day. All it takes is one cup of hot water and one-fourth of a teaspoon of sea salt stirred together and you have the only mouth cleanser you’ll need for your piercing.

Using this rinse once in the morning and once in the evening will be enough to keep your mouth clean and to help encourage tongue piercing healing.

There are also many specialized piercing aftercare sprays available on the market if you’d rather not have to mix up your own solution every day.

The best aftercare product I’ve personally used is the After Inked Piercing Aftercare Spray. Not only is it vegan, but it’s also completely alcohol and additive-free. The solution works well on all skin types including sensitive skin, and it comes in a generously-sized mist-spraying bottle for easy application. When using it from the very start of the healing process, the spray helps to decrease healing times and aims to eliminate any lingering pain or soreness.​

In addition to using this rinse, there are a few other rules you should follow to make your life easier after your piercing.

You’ll want to watch what you eat and drink in the first week or two because of the pain or discomfort you’ll have. Hot drinks like coffee or tea may not feel so great – if you need your daily caffeine fix, you should let it cool a bit before you try to drink it.

Avoid taking any aspirin to help you with pain because aspirin is a known blood thinner. If you’re still having issues with bleeding the day or two after your piercing, aspirin could make this complication worse.

If you have any concerns or questions about your piercing at any point, you should use your best resource – your piercer. Any situation or trouble you’re having is probably old hat for your piercer. You won’t be able to surprise them with your concern and they’ve likely been asked every question already so don’t worry about pestering them.

They want your experience with them and your tongue piercing to be a good one – they’re going to increase their business by getting good word of mouth. That means they should be devoted to soothing any worries you have, if they know what’s good for their business.

How Long Does A Tongue Piercing Take To Heal?

You won’t have to wait very long before you can swap out your tongue piercing jewelry. That’s because tongue piercings heal pretty quickly compared to other piercings. It will only take one to two months for your tongue piercing to fully heal, depending upon which one you have done.

A tongue web piercing is one of the fastest to heal. Having your tongue pierced in a thicker location will result in longer healing times.

No matter which location you have it pierced in, you shouldn’t swap out your jewelry until it’s done healing. You don’t want to risk having the hole close up on you after you’ve already endured the pain of the piercing and the aftermath. Practice a little more patience and you’ll be happy with the end result.

Tongue Piercing Infections

Most tongue piercing infections happen in the first month after you’ve had your piercing done, so it’s crucial in that first month to keep as much bacteria out of your mouth as you can.

That means keeping your fingers out of your mouth. If you are a constant nail biter, this would be a good time to stop. That will cut down on some bacteria that can hide under your nails.

To be on the safe side, you should stop putting your fingers in your mouth whenever you can. You should also make sure your hands are always clean. The best way to do that is with frequent handwashing, especially if you decide you want to look at and feel your new piercing.

In addition to your salt water rinses, you should also make sure to drink water frequently throughout the day. That can help to keep your piercing site clean and stop that bacteria from making your tongue piercing site their new home.

The signs of a tongue infection are pretty easy to spot, even if you don’t frequently look at the piercing in the mirror. An infection can be signaled by a few different symptoms, including redness around the piercing area, swelling, discoloration, weird-looking discharge and pain.

Nobody loves going to the doctor. It’s expensive and it can mean taking time off of work to go, depending upon what your schedule is. Nevertheless, if you notice signs of an infection, you need to bite the bullet and get in to see the doctor.

You are taking a big chance if you ignore the signs of infection just to save yourself the money you’ll have to spend on a doctor. You could end up losing a lot more money if you need a hospital stay to clear up a bad infection that could have been treated easily to begin with.

Tongue Piercing Risks

Getting your tongue pierced may seem like a simple, low-risk thing to do, but actually it does have a lot of risk attached to it.

Here are some of the reasons you might want to reconsider a tongue piercing. There’s no guarantee all of these, or even any of these, worst-case scenarios will happen to you. Yet if you’re a chronic worrier who will stress out about it, you might not want to chance it.

Contracting a Disease

There is always a remote chance you could contract a disease like HIV or hepatitis if you use a piercer who doesn’t use sterile equipment. Although this risk is very small, you should still take steps to eliminate it.

To better protect yourself, you should only hire a piercer who uses sanitary equipment. As long as the equipment is properly cleaned and sterilized, you’ll be just fine.

While these diseases are scary, the chances of you getting one are slim – the other risks are much more likely.

Receding Gums

There isn’t a lot of extra space in your mouth. Everything that’s in there serves a purpose and it is engineered to all work together. When you put a piercing in there, it throws things off. Your jewelry starts to rub and scrape at everything that’s already in there.

When your piercing constantly rubs up against your gums, your teeth may end up the real losers. That’s because gums help anchor and protect your teeth and piercings can cause them to recede.

That receding gum could lead to tooth loss. That’s a steep price for you to pay for your piercing. Using smaller jewelry can help you lessen the chances of experiencing this complication.

Broken Teeth

That cool-looking jewelry can be hard on your teeth. As it strikes your teeth during eating and talking, it can chip or crack your teeth.

If you use bigger jewelry, you have a bigger risk. To minimize your chances of ending up with broken teeth, opt for small-size jewelry.


This side effect of piercings can happen with any location of piercing you have, whether it’s your navel, ear or tongue. If you end up with an infection in your earlobe, it will prove to be a minor inconvenience, but it’s usually one that can be easily treated. You might be able to take care of it at home without even visiting a doctor’s office.

If your tongue gets infected though, you should skip the idea of attempting home care. You’ll need to visit a doctor to make sure it’s treated. Your tongue contains big blood vessels that may quickly spread the infection throughout your body. Obviously, a wide-spread infection can be bad news for your overall health.


Those large blood vessels in your tongue could mean you might lose a fair amount of blood if your piercer nicks one of those, and if someone pierces right through that blood vessel, you might even need surgery to close that wound up.

That’s just one of the many reasons why you should only let a person who is trained to perform a tongue piercing do your work for you. This isn’t a job for an amateur. Well-meaning friends who are dabbling in piercing on the side should never be allowed to do a tongue piercing.

To better protect yourself against blood loss, you should only let a qualified piercer handle your tongue piercing.

Swallowing Your Jewelry

This complication can be really bad and it’s one that is often most feared, right up there with infections.

If your jewelry accidentally becomes dislodged and you swallow it, you can be in a world of trouble. While there’s a chance it will go through your digestive system without causing problems, it can also get stuck or cause internal bleeding. That can mean major medical problems for you.

As many of the jewelry pieces have screw-on ends, you should be able to feel when they’re getting loose. That will help you avoid swallowing them.

Tongue Piercing Jewelry

Barbells are a common type of jewelry that people use in their tongue piercings. The balls on either side of the barbell come in any color imaginable. They can be one solid color or they can have a marble-like pattern to them. The ends of the barbell can be made out of metal, glass or even acrylic.

Barbells can also have jewels on either end. If you get the kinds with jewels, you should first make sure they are set in the barbell really well. You don’t want them falling out of the barbell after it’s been placed in your tongue. You would likely swallow the jewel before you even know it was gone.

If you really want to attract attention to yourself, you can even get an LED light-up piece of jewelry. That will really stand out, especially in dark settings like clubs or bars.

Depending upon what type of piercing you’re getting in your tongue, you can also use other types of jewelry like a captive bead ring or even a simple stud.

As far as metals go, you have lots of options. Some of the more common metals used for tongue piercings include stainless steel, titanium, gold, silver and niobium.


Tongue piercings are a little scary, especially if you’re a newbie to the piercing world. If you take the time to study up on them and what will happen before, during and after, they aren’t as frightening as you initially think they are.

All you have to do is get through the rough first week or two and ward off any infections and you’ll be home free. In a couple of months, you’ll be able to change your jewelry and then the fun will really begin. With a simple jewelry switch, you’ll be able to alter your look and show off your attitude.​

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