Tongue Splitting

Tongue Splitting

Tongue splitting (also known as bifurcation or forking), is a type of body modification where the tongue is split centrally from the tip to the centre of the tongue, or as far back as is desired. There are several methods used to split tongues including scalpelling, cutting using a cautery unit, cutting and cauterizing, cutting and stitching, or tying-off.

Here at Holier Than Thou, we only recommend straight scalpelling or scalpelling and suturing for tongue bifurcation. If you intend to go for the straight split we insist you have an existing tongue piercing that is stretched to at least 4mm to ensure a healed anchor point, to minimize regrowth and the need to re-cut. The scalpel and suture method takes longer during the procedure and is slightly more uncomfortable during the healing phase but does lead to a ‘pointier’ end result. The choice is ultimately yours.

Other methods of tongue splitting have complications and/or do not yield a desirable end-result, as follows:

Cutting using a cautery unit – this effectively ‘vaporises’ tissue and removes a small amount of tissue leaving a softer appearance. Whilst this method has the benefit of a lesser initial bleed, the healing is longer and more uncomfortable as you have a brand to contend with along with the cut tongue! This method still has the potential for significant bleeding episodes throughout the healing process.
Cutting and cauterizing – whilst this stops blood flow initially, the amount of pain and discomfort felt is significantly greater, and there is still the potential for bleeding episodes throughout the healing process. The healing process will also likely be prolonged and the result less straight and even.
Tying-off – this method is never advised for anyone to consider. It involves having an existing tongue piercing, and tying a length of cord through the piercing and around to the tip of the tongue, tying it tighter each day until the tongue eventually splits. This method involves weeks of constant pain and increased infection risk, and the end result is rarely straight and even.
At Holier Than Thou, we perform tongue splits quickly, cleanly, and with the least amount of fuss or distress. We always have two artists perform this modification to ensure a perfectly even split. The client will have the oral area cleaned and will be sat up, and one artist will stand behind the client holding forceps on each side of the tongue. The second artist will stand in front of the client and perform the split, which takes only a matter of seconds (it is, in fact, faster than a tongue piercing procedure!)
Sterile gauze is then applied to the split tongue with pressure and the client is allowed to sit and rest for around 5 minutes until any bleeding ceases. We then offer the client a few sips of water and advise you to rest in the studio for 20 minutes or so until you carry on with your day.

It is important that you have no alcohol or blood thinning drugs in your system before a tongue split. Having something to eat before the tongue split is also essential. After the split has healed, if you do experience any re-growth and want your tongue split further back, a single re-split is always *FREE*.

Front Healed Back Fresh (Re-split with sutures)

Fresh Split With Sutures

Fresh Split With Sutures

Healed Split (this one was performed with sutures – Pointy Healed Result)

Healed Split (this one was performed with sutures – Pointy Healed Result)


Things to expect from your tongue split:

Soon after the split, it may bleed if knocked or if you wiggle your tongue too much. This is common and perfectly normal! Just apply some sterile gauze and pressure for a couple of minutes until the blood clots. Be careful when removing the gauze to avoid “sticking” the tongue to the gauze and removing the clot as this may cause it to bleed again.
For the first week, expect the area to be red, swollen, tender, puffy, and sometimes bruised. Talking should be kept to a minimum to reduce swelling and discomfort.
Expect the split to secrete clear/white/pale yellow fluid throughout the healing process. Many people mistake this fluid as a sign of infection – please don’t worry. A green smelly fluid indicates infection.
If you have gone for the suture method, its very important to leave your tongue alone as much as possible and keep the sutures in place for as long as possible (at least 5-7 days ideally.) This means avoiding solid food during this time. Return to the studio on day 7 for a free check-up and to remove any remaining sutures.
If you went for a straight split, within 24-36 hours after the cut, lymphatic tissue will form on each side of the cut sides and is usually most obvious upon waking. This is the tongue trying to re-bond throughout the night. It is vital that you remove any build up during your morning cleaning routine or at least daily with a cotton bud to avoid the tongue healing back together.
Each independent side can take up to two months to fully heal. Whilst the tongue may appear healed and easily manageable within 1-2 weeks, it is common for the tongue to try to heal itself back together at any point throughout the first few months and re-growth can occur at any point during this period. If you find you require a slight re-split if you do have some regrowth, we can arrange this for you.
We recommend you speak with your doctor before undergoing a tongue splitting procedure, and if he suggests a prophylactic course of antibiotics may be beneficial, we suggest you take these.

How to care for your tongue split:

Keep yourself hydrated to minimise and help reduce swelling.
Avoid playing with your tongue as this will irritate the area, prolong swelling and healing.
Alcohol and drugs should be avoided until the initial swelling has gone. Alcohol is an irritant and may worsen or prolong swelling and healing.
Avoid hot, spicy, salty or citrus foods and caffeine for the first few days. All of these are irritants and will slow down the healing process (and might sting a bit!)
If you are a smoker, try to cut down as much as possible during the healing process and rinse your mouth out with 1 part alcohol-free mouthwash to 10 parts water after each cigarette.
During the healing, gargle with the (cooled) salt water solution described below, or 1 part alcohol-free mouthwash to 10 parts water after each meal.
Stick to soft food and a liquid diet as much as possible for the first few days
This is the best excuse you’ll ever get to eat ice cream or cold products – as it reduces the swelling!
Ibuprofen can help with any dull healing pain, and will reduce swelling. Alternatively, if a herbal remedy is preferred, dissolve two 30c arnica tablets underneath the tongue up to four times daily throughout the healing process to reduce swelling. Take tablets only in accordance with manufacturers instructions and consult your doctor prior to taking any medication. Asprin based pain killing products should be avoided as they can contribute to further blood loss.
Morning and evening, use a cotton bud dipped in the saltwater solution described below to remove any build up of discharge or tissue between the tongue and ensure it is separated. Gargle with undiluted alcohol-free mouthwash once in the morning and once in the evening throughout the healing process.

How to mix salt water correctly:

Pour approximately HALF A PINT of boiling water into a large mug/cup, then add a QUARTER OF A TEASPOON of rock or sea salt to the water. .
Wait until this has cooled just enough to use whilst it’s still hot, but not hot enough to burn you or cause discomfort, then use a clean cotton bud to clean around the split.
The solution should taste about as salty as tears – too much salt will irritate the area, doing more harm than good.
Clean your split with salt water twice a day. Do not forget to wash your hands before doing so!