Read This Before You Get A Tongue Piercing

If you've been thinking about spicing up your look with a tongue piercing, then kudos to you! Tongue piercings aren't just cool looking in general, they also make for a great conversation starter. However, like any body modification, tongue piercings aren't without their downsides.

If a healthy human mouth contains 700 species of bacteria, just think about what an unhealthy mouth contains (via News Medical). Or maybe don't think about it, for the sake of keeping your lunch down. And while the entire human body is inhabited by bacteria and fungi (via NPR), the mouth is a hotbed for them. The warm, wet environment is an ideal place for bacteria to get out of control if oral hygiene isn't kept on the up and up.

An unhealthy mouth makes for an unhealthy tongue, and if you also neglect to clean your piercing properly, things can get bad. As in, not just mild irritations, but full-blown infections. "[With an] infection, your tongue is going to look absolutely wild," New York City-based piercer Jenna Myers tells Allure. "It'll be two to three times the size, turning almost green or white, [with pus]." Yikes. But that's just the beginning.

What to expect during and after the piercing

While the tongue seems like a place that's going to be one of the most painful spots to get a piercing, apparently it's not (via Fresh Trends). The real pain comes in the days that follow. Not just because it's healing, but because you use your tongue a lot. Think talking, eating, and even little things like humming. But, as long as you follow your aftercare instructions to take care of your mouth, including brushing your teeth, flossing, and using alcohol-free mouthwash, the piercing typically heals within a month (via TatRing).

During the healing process, you should expect your speech to change, but don't think your eating habits have to. "Living off baby food and oatmeal will only deprive you of the nutrition you need," medical liaison and former president of the Association of Professional Piercing Brian Skellie tells Cosmopolitan. "You can eat normal food, just take small bites and chew slowly." There are some exceptions, of course; spicy and acidic food is off limits. 

According to Skellie, to prevent infections, you also want to avoid kissing. In case you missed this fun fact that went viral a few years ago: a 10-second kiss transfers 80 million bacteria (via Microbiome Journal). A good tip is to carry water with you everywhere, so you can swish out any bacteria or food residue that your mouth may come into contact with.

The negative impact of tongue piercings

As far as tongue piercings go, they're not too expensive, ranging from $30-$100 depending on where you live (via Fresh Trends). However, you don't want to take out your tongue ring at any point during the healing process or leave it out for extended periods of time once it's fully healed. A tongue piercing can close quickly — within the span of hours to a couple of days — even if you've had it for years (via Authority Tattoo). Then you'll have to drop more cash to have it done again.

Tongue rings can also irritate your gums and damage your teeth by rubbing off essential enamel. And if you have a tongue ring long enough, Sawsan Tabbaa, professor of orthodontics at the University of Buffalo, tells BBC that it can even cause teeth to separate. "The barbell is never removed because the tongue is so vascular that leaving the stud out can result in healing of the opening in the tongue, so it makes perfect sense that constant pushing of the stud against the teeth — every day with no break — will move them or drive them apart." In rare but serious cases, Tabbaa says tongue piercings can also be associated with hemorrhages and brain abscesses.

Of course, body modification is a personal choice, but before you do anything to your body — tattoos, piercings, horn implants — just make sure you know what you're getting yourself into.