A venom piercing is a double tongue piercing — one on each side of the tongue. Though not quite as tough-sounding, it’s sometimes called a frog eye piercing because the balls on the jewelry resemble frog eyes when you open your mouth.
Straight barbells are the most common type of jewelry used for venom piercings. A barbell has two ball ends that thread into place at the entry and exit points. Those used for initial piercings need to be long enough to accommodate swelling — and there will be swelling.
Once your venom piercing has fully healed, you can swap out your jewelry for a smaller size.
The Association of Professional Piercers (APP) recommends jewelry made from gold, biocompatible plastics, or metals that have specific designations by the American Society for Testing and Materials Standard (now known as ASTM International) and the International Standards Organization (ISO).
Look for jewelry made from these materials:
- Surgical steel. Opt for surgical steel jewelry that’s ASTM F-138, ISO 5832-1, or ISO 10993-(6, 10, or 11) compliant. Keep in mind that even surgical stainless steel contains some nickel, which could cause a reaction if you have a nickel allergy.
- Titanium. Implant-grade titanium is nickel-free, making it a good option if you’re worried about nickel sensitivity. Look for titanium that’s ASTM F-136 or ISO 5832-3 compliant, or commercially pure titanium that’s ASTM F-136 compliant.
- 14-karat or higher gold. Gold jewelry should be at least 14 karats. Avoid gold-plated, filled jewelry, or gold vermeil or overlay since they contain other alloys with a thin layer of gold that can chip or wear off.
- Niobium. Niobium is a lightweight metal similar to titanium but without an implant-grade designation. Used by piercers for years, it’s affordable and hypoallergenic.
- Biocompatible plastics. Also called biocompatible polymers, plastics like Tygon and Bioplast are safe for initial piercings. They may be an especially good choice for oral piercings, as they’re less likely to cause irritation or damage to the teeth and gums. There’s also some
evidencethat they’re more resistant to bacterial growth than other materials.
A venom piercing can cost anywhere from $60 to $100, not including the jewelry. Jewelry typically runs from $10 to $30 per piece.
How much you pay will depend on the location and popularity of the studio, the piercer’s level of experience, and the jewelry’s material. When pricing out your piercing, don’t forget to factor in a 20 percent tip.
The piercer will examine your tongue to make sure you’re a good candidate for it. Then, you’ll choose your jewelry and fill out some paperwork, including a consent form.
While the next steps may vary a little depending on the piercer, most oral piercings follow similar steps:
- You’ll be given an antiseptic mouthwash to rinse with to reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth.
- The piercer will mark the entry and exit points for each barbell using a body-safe marker.
- Small forceps will be used to hold your tongue steady for the needle.
- A hollow, sterilized needle is then inserted from the underside of the tongue up through the first marking. The barbell is then pushed through and the ball is screwed on.
- The piercer will repeat this on the other side of your tongue.
- You’ll rinse your mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash again, and the piercer will wipe away any blood.
Yep, most likely. According to people who have a venom piercing, it’s usually described as being well above a 5 on a scale from 1 to 10. They also say it’s considerably more painful than a regular tongue piercing, and the second piercing may hurt more than the first.
Just how painful it will be for you, however, is hard to say. Pain is subjective, and no two people’s experiences are exactly the same.
Pain, swelling, bleeding, and bruising are to be expected after piercing your tongue, but these symptoms should gradually improve over the next week.
Tongue piercings do carry risks outside of the usual piercing risks though.
Here’s a look at some of the potential risks:
- Infection. Infections can result from the procedure itself or from poor aftercare, if bacteria can get into the wounds.
- Bloodborne infections. It’s possible to develop bloodborne infections, like HIV, tetanus, and hepatitis B and C, from contaminated needles.
- Allergic reaction. The jewelry material could cause an allergic reaction in those with sensitive skin, particularly if it contains nickel.
- Severe swelling of the tongue and airway blockage. Some swelling is normal, but if your tongue swells too much, it could block your airway.
- Bleeding. Severe bleeding is possible if a blood vessel is damaged during piercing.
- Increased saliva production. Tongue piercings can sometimes increase the production of saliva and lead to drooling.
- Teeth and gum issues. Your jewelry can rub against your teeth and gums and damage teeth enamel and irritate your gums. It’s possible to chip or crack a tooth if you accidentally bite down on your jewelry.
- Heart and brain abscesses. Though rare, there are documented cases of heart and brain abscesses — some
fatal— caused by an infection traveling through the bloodstream following a tongue piercing.
- Nerve damage. While also rare, nerve damage from tongue piercings can happen. In most cases, this happens during the piercing, but in a
2006 case, the jewelry irritated a nerve under the tongue connected to the trigeminal nerve and caused trigeminal neuralgia.
- Swallowing or choking on jewelry. Accidentally swallowing or choking on loose or broken jewelry is possible. This is another reason why choosing quality jewelry and materials is so important.
There happens to be a lot of bacteria in your mouth, which can make for slow healing, especially with two piercings. With proper aftercare and no complications, the healing time for a venom piercing is 6 to 8 weeks.
Keep in mind that not everyone heals at the same speed and factors like your overall health and smoking can also slow healing.
To lower your risk for complications and to help your piercings heal, proper aftercare is a must.
While healing, do:
- Rest your tongue by avoiding talking.
- Stick with soft foods for the first few days.
- Brush your teeth twice daily with a soft-bristle toothbrush.
- Use a diluted mouthwash or sea salt rinse after meals, after smoking or alcohol, and before bed.
- Only touch your piercing with clean hands.
- Dissolve ice in your mouth or drink ice water to reduce swelling.
- Sleep with your head elevated to keep help with swelling.
- Take an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve).
While healing, don’t:
- Engage in any sexual activity involving the mouth, including open-mouth kissing.
- Share cups or utensils.
- Play with or touch your jewelry.
- Chew gum or anything that could harbor bacteria, like pencils.
- Move your tongue more than you have to.
- Engage in any rough activity like contact sports.
- Remove the jewelry before you’re fully healed.
Some pain, swelling, and bruising are to be expected within the first week, but these symptoms should improve gradually. Anything else could be a sign of a complication.
See a healthcare provider right away if you notice:
- severe or worsening pain, bleeding, or swelling
- redness around the piercing sites
- thick yellow or green discharge from the piercing sites
- foul smell from the piercing sites
Changing your jewelry before you’re fully healed may increase your risk for injury and infection.
Wait at least until the recommended healing time has passed before changing your jewelry.
Once healed, the piercer can change the jewelry for you or you can do it yourself.
If you decide to retire the piercing, just remove the jewelry and let the holes close. Depending on how long you’ve had them in, you’ll either end up with a little scarring that looks like bumps or tiny indents at the sites.
If you’re ready to get your venom piercing, find a reputable piercer and studio through the APP.
Before choosing a piercer, do the following the following to ensure the best experience:
- Visit the studio in person to check that it’s clean, and ask about their sterilization process.
- Check that the staff are knowledgeable, professional, and make you feel comfortable.
- Ask to see a portfolio, including pictures of healed client piercings.
- Check for a good selection of quality jewelry.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddleboard.