Tongue piercing and splitting

The Fad of Tongue Piercing & Splitting

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Watching Tom Cruise maneuver his way outside the walls of the tallest structure in the world is sure to pump doses of adrenaline inside our bodies. Clearly, people have developed a certain liking for suspense and danger and the unmistakable ‘high’ we derive from them.

Over the years, men have invented strange ways to turn danger into fun and even into fashion. Multiple ear piercing is now a thing of the not so distant past. Now, thousands of people have turned to tongue piercing and splitting.

SEE ALSO: Do Oral Piercings Cause Infections?

Tongue piercing is nothing entirely new. In history, the Mesoamericans have long been practicing tongue piercing rituals in honor of their deities. Tongue piercing increasingly reclaims its place in contemporary society. The surgical barbell-type jewelry ‘tongue-rings’ has become an accessory to fashion since the 1980s.

Tongue splitting was unheard of until the late 1990s. Also known as forking, this involves splitting the tongue centrally from its tip to as far back as its underside base through scalpel, cauterization or tying off (fishing line) method. This is performed by dental surgeons, plastic surgeons, body modification practitioners or even by oneself. Several states in the US and in Australia have already banned and made tongue splitting illegal.

Tongue splitting and piercing are associated with certain health-related risks. According to the American Dental Association, these can interfere with one’s speech, chewing or swallowing. These can also cause increased salivation, loss of taste and serious blood loss. Studies have long linked tongue splitting and piercing to:

  • Infections – the wound from piercing or splitting coming in contact with the millions of bacteria in the mouth and additional bacteria from the jewelries
  • Disease transmission – increases potential risk for Hepatitis B & C and Herpes Simplex Virus
  • Endocarditis – heightened risk of the entry of bacteria into the bloodstream which may cause inflammation of the heart and its valves or endocarditis.
  • Nerve damage – numbness to site of ‘surgery’ if the nerves are compromised and damaged; tongue swelling after piercing can be serious enough to block the airway, making breathing difficult.
  • Secondary hemorrhage – risk of severe secondary hemorrhaging due to the sectioning of the arteries supplying blood to the tongue
  • Gum disease – People with piercings are more vulnerable to gum diseases that can lead to teeth damage and loss
  • Tooth damage – chipping and cracking of the teeth as a result of accidental ‘biting’ while chewing or speaking.

People who still consider going through tongue ‘modifications’ despite the risks should know if their prospective studio carries a health certificate, if it has hospital-grade facilities for sterilization and if all its staff members have been vaccinated against Hepatitis B.