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How Tongue Splitting Works

        Culture | Body Art

Getting Your Tongue Split

Just as there are many ways to skin a cat (please don't), there are a few different ways to have your tongue split. A majority of the people actually start off with a tongue piercing. The healed hole makes an excellent starting point for the split [source: Medical Bag]. From there, we have three categories: the tie-off method, the cauterization method and the scalpel method.

One of the first documented techniques for modern tongue splitting, the tie-off method is also the most gradual. However, be warned that it's also considered the most dangerous for its increased risk of infection (the process can take several weeks), and most professionals strongly recommend against it. But basically, all that's involved is looping a strand of fishing line (or other thin, strong wire) through a pre-existing piercing and tying the ends off tightly at the tip of the tongue (where you want the split to start). After a little bit, the line will cut into the tongue from both ends, slackening as the two ends move closer together. Then, the line is removed, and the process is repeated with a new strand until a clean split is made [sources: Holier; Medical Bag].

Now the cauterization method, which is basically burning your tongue in half. Let that image sink in a sec. Because it offers the most controlled, sterile option, this is the method generally favored by medical professionals. And you'll probably be glad to know that your specialist will make your mouth good and numb with a local anesthetic before making the cut. From there, some common form of cauterization tool will be applied to your tongue -- a cautery pen, an argon laser or a heated blade, for instance. Your surgeon will move the implement from the tip back to your desired endpoint (usually about 3–5 centimeters), singing your precious little blood vessels shut along the way [source: Loftus].

Finally, the scalpel method. Seriously, it's amazing we got this far into a discussion about tongue splitting without talking about knives of any kind. But the humble scalpel technique works much in the same way as the cauterization method. Except -- quite unsurprisingly -- this will make your tongue bleed. A lot. From there, your tongue will either be sutured or cauterized to close the wounds and control bleeding. This is the technique more commonly practiced at tattoo or body modification shops, but a warning: Only medical professionals can give you anesthetics. If you go to a shop, you're going to feel the whole thing -- likely over the course of multiple sessions [source: Vaughn].

Next, with a brand-new forked tongue (and possibly a wad of gauze) tucked securely in your mouth, it's time to start the healing process.

Techniques for tongue splitting
Techniques for tongue splitting
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