Everything You Want to Know About Tongue Splitting
Tongue splitting is a type of oral body modification that involves splitting your tongue in half.
It’s usually done around the tip of the tongue or in some cases toward the middle of the tongue to give the tongue a “forked” look.
Everyone has different reasons for wanting to split their tongue.
Some want a certain look purely for aesthetics, to perform special types of oral sex acts, to achieve a sense of one’s self-identity, and more.
This type of body mod is highly specialized, very delicate, and extremely dangerous.
The tongue is dense with nerves and muscles that can easily be damaged if this procedure isn’t done by an experienced professional.
And getting your tongue split puts you at high risk for possibly fatal complications like bleeding and infection.
You should never try doing this procedure at home. Tongue splitting is considered so dangerous that even the American Dental Association (ADA) warns people not to do it.
If you feel strongly about having this procedure, absolutely make sure it’s done by a reputable professional with extensive experience.
Have an experienced professional oral or plastic surgeon split your tongue.
Doing it yourself at home can drastically increase your risk of infections or irreversible damage to your tongue.
There’s more than one way to split a tongue. Here are the most common methods:
To split your tongue with a scalpel, your surgeon will follow these steps:
- They’ll heat a scalpel to help seal the wound more quickly and prevent excess blood loss.
- They’ll use the scalpel to cut a straight line from the tip of your tongue back toward your throat until they reach a point you’re comfortable with.
- Then, they’ll stitch together the sides of the tongue that were cut.
To split your tongue with cauterization, using either an argon laser or cautery tool:
- The surgeon will direct the heated beam of the laser or tool along the area you want split, essentially burning through the tongue tissues and sealing blood vessels to prevent bleeding.
- Finally, they’ll stitch together any parts of the tongue that aren’t fully sealed by the heat.
Tie-off or fishing line
This is the most common DIY tongue splitting method, but it should only be done under the supervision of a professional.
Most people who do this start with a tongue piercing placed where they want the back end of the split to be.
The idea is that the professional will thread a piece of twine or fishing line through the piercing hole, and tie it tightly at the tip of the tongue to put pressure on, and over time with tighter and tighter knots, pierce the tongue.
The cost varies widely depending on where you get it done and the experience of the person who does it. On average, this procedure costs about $1,500 to $2,500.
The pain of tongue splitting can be pretty intense if you try to do it yourself or with someone who’s inexperienced.
On a scale of 1 to 10, the pain of getting your tongue split — and the pain during recovery afterwards — is about 7 to 9.
This also depends on your pain tolerance and whether or not you use pain medications after the procedure.
Your tongue takes about two weeks to fully heal, and the pain will gradually get easier to tolerate over time.
Pain may be more intense when you talk, eat, or generally use your tongue throughout the day.
Once the surgical site seals up, the stitches fall out, and you get used to the new ways you’ll need to move your tongue, the pain will ease up significantly.
Risks of tongue splitting
Tongue splitting comes with many risks. Some may happen during or right after the procedure, but others may not be obvious until long after it’s been done.
Here are some of the risks of the procedure itself:
- heavy bleeding
- blood infection from surgical tools
- damage to nerves or muscles in the tongue
- damage to tooth surfaces from surgical tools
- endocarditis, or heart infection
Some risks that may occur after you’ve done the procedure, especially if it wasn’t done by a professional or doesn’t heal well include:
- continuous bleeding
- discharge from the split area
- tongue infection
- gum infection, often caused by infection of the surgical site
- gums recession
- permanent scarring on the tongue
- development of thick, bumpy scar tissue on the tongue
- death of tongue tissue
Even if your tongue heals, you may experience some long-term and irreversible side effects, such as:
- higher risk of mouth infections
- producing more saliva than before
- changes in breathing
- airway blockage
- loss of sensation or ability to taste certain flavors
- loss of total control of tongue movement
- lesions on the roof of your mouth
Why do people do it?
Tongue splitting can look pretty cool, especially if it’s done along with piercings or other body mods.
The unique appearance or shock factor is one of the main appeals of this procedure.
It was made especially (in)famous by Erik Sprague, self-styled as the Lizardman, who had a tongue splitting procedure done, along with hundreds of other body modifications, including surgically implanted spines, to look more like a lizard.
A split tongue can also have a sexual appeal. A split tongue may give you access to new styles of kissing, and some people have reported that they can perform new types of oral sex.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor right away if you notice any of the following after you’ve gotten the procedure done:
- heavy bleeding that won’t stop
- parts of the surgical site opening up or stitches falling out
- abnormal pus or discharge oozing from the site
- symptoms of infection in the tongue
- unusual pain or tenderness in your gums or teeth
- tongue healing slowly or not at all
- surgical site getting worse
The bottom line
Tongue splitting is a type of body modification that people do for various reasons.
It can be dangerous, even if it’s done by a professional.
Don’t ever try to do it yourself unsupervised, and seek emergency medical help if you experience any severe symptoms or complications.