Tongue Forking: Attractive Dental Modification Or Body Mutilation?

3 February 2015
 Categories: Dentist, Blog


Tongue piercings are so last century. Nowadays, tongue splitting (or tongue forking) is all the rage. Although you may wonder why anyone would want to have a forked tongue, this form of body modification continues to grow in popularity all around the world. To better understand the practice of tongue splitting, the following information explains the basics of this procedure, along with its associated risks.

Tongue Splitting Explained

Tongue splitting involves dividing the tongue about one to two inches from the tip to the back, according to the patient's personal preference. The result is a bisected tongue with two independently moving parts. This is possible because each side of your tongue has its own set of muscles.

Because there is no actual tissue removed during the procedure, you can have it reversed down the road if you change your mind. However, if you are unsure about it at all, most practitioners advise against having your tongue split.

The Procedure

There are three main steps involved in a cosmetic tongue splitting procedure:

  1. Your dentist or surgeon will administer a local anesthesia, like Novocain, or put you completely to sleep with general anesthesia. Discuss the options with your practitioner to determine the best type of anesthesia for you.
  2. Next, your dentist or surgeon will use a laser, knife or cautery to split your tongue down the middle.
  3. After the tongue is split, your practitioner will suture the exposed tissue to avoid excessive bleeding and reduce the risk of infection. Stitching up each side of the split also prevents the tongue from healing back together.

Typically, it takes a couple weeks to heal from the procedure. Once you've fully recovered, you'll need to retrain your split tongue so you can speak without slurring.

Risks Associated with Tongue Splitting

The American Dental Association opposes the practice of cosmetic tongue splitting because it can result in a variety of complications, including:

  • Pain and swelling
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Scarring
  • Speech distortion
  • Lingual nerve damage

These risks become even more pronounced if you undergo tongue forking by a tattooist, body piercer or anyone who is neither qualified nor licensed to safely perform the procedure. As a matter of fact, some states have strict guidelines in place for patients and practitioners of tongue splitting. For example, in Delaware, it is illegal to perform this procedure unless you are a licensed dentist or physician.

Some see tongue splitting as nothing short of mutilation, while others consider it to be a beautiful body enhancement. If tongue splitting appeals to you, discuss your options with a dentist, like one at Bishop Michael R DMD & Associates, or oral surgeon before proceeding. Together, you can weigh the pros and cons to decide if this procedure is right for you.