tongue ring piercing red lips

Is tongue piercing safe? Photo: Uwe Krejci/ Riser

Body piercing has been fairly commonplace for quite a while, but that doesn't mean the industry is well regulated.

Today's Daily Mail reports the unfortunate incident of a teenage girl's tongue piercing gone wrong. The 15-year-old went to a U.K. tattoo parlor for a tongue piercing, which resulted in a ruptured vein that bled profusely and had to be stitched in an emergency room. While this is certainly an awful story, StyleList wondered how often this sort of thing happens.

Maria Tash, owner of Venus by Maria Tash in New York City, gave her take on the story.

"I've been piercing for 16 years. What happened to this girl is not common at all, but it can happen. She's very young to have gotten it done. We only deal with people who are 18 or older unless they come in with a parent. Fifteen is too young to handle this kind of piercing without a parent's supervision," Tash tells StyleList.

Tash also explained that most people don't bleed at all with tongue piercings and usually heal very quickly -- in about a month -- as opposed to navel piercings, which can take six to nine months.

The man who performed the procedure on the teen claims she must have interfered with the piercing after leaving his shop, but Tash says, "I thought it was lame for the piercer to blame the girl. Generally it wouldn't induce massive bleeding. Tongue piercing is not a huge risk. You have to be smart about it. You have to be aware of cleanliness, needle angles, and placement. Implying that there is possible tongue paralysis or permanent speech impairment is ridiculous and highly unlikely."

She also says piercing is mostly unregulated and almost anyone can call themselves a professional piercer.

Dr. Audrey Kunin, a Kansas City, Mo., dermatologist warns, "Infection is the biggest risk with tongue piercing because of bacteria in the area. I think body piercing, aside from ear piercing, should involve some sort of parental consent."

Dr. Kunin suggests that you check the establishment for cleanliness, ensuring that practitioners are using sterile needles and wearing surgical gloves to protect the customer as well as the piercer. But is a 15-year-old equipped to make such judgments?

As with any cosmetic procedure, experts agree you have to do your homework and go through referrals and reviews before choosing a professional. Tash says most reputable places won't pierce minors without parental supervision or permission. Individuals interested in piercings can consult the Association of Professional Piercers as well.