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Split Tongue: Helpful Insights into the Lizard Cut On Tongue Procedure and Risks

Tongue bifurcation involves surgically splitting a portion of your tongue in half for aesthetic reasons. But before you dive into the lizard cut on tongue procedure, try to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of tongue splitting and the medical complications that may arise.

First and foremost, don’t try this at home! Tongue splitting can be a highly dangerous procedure that should only be carried out by a licensed professional, such as an oral or plastic surgeon. 

In fact, in some areas, it’s actually illegal for a surgeon or body modification practitioner to perform tongue bifurcations on patients. Health care providers are usually required to conduct a preoperative psychological assessment to rule out specific conditions in advance, including those that affect an individual’s body image, like body dysmorphia.

Next, we cover the three main techniques used to create a split tongue.

This approach is also referred to as the “tie-off” method, and unfortunately, it sometimes serves as a DIY strategy for tongue splitting. (Again, a split tongue operation should only be conducted by a medical professional.)

Most fishing line patients already have a preexisting, healed piercing located exactly where they want the split to end. A piece of fishing line or twine is threaded through the original piercing and tied tightly. As the tongue starts to split and the fishing line loosens, it’s replaced by a new, tighter thread. Over the course of days, weeks, or even months, this process produces a split tongue without the use of stitches or cauterization.

Tongue splitting can also be accomplished with the aid of an argon laser or cauterization tool to replicate the appearance of a lizard’s tongue. The surgeon burns the tongue and splits it, immediately cauterizing open blood vessels to stop the bleeding. If necessary, they could sew stitches on any parts of the tongue that weren’t fully cauterized.

Patients of this procedure typically have a piercing already in place; otherwise, the tongue would be more likely to completely heal itself. If this occurs, the tongue bifurcation must be repeated later on to achieve a deeper split.

In this type of tongue splitting operation, the health care provider uses a scalpel to cut down the middle of the tongue. Then, each side is stitched up along the edge of the wound. In some cases, the scalpel may be heated beforehand to help cauterize the wound and minimize bleeding.

The amount of pain experienced during tongue splitting varies depending on the technique, the stage of the procedure, and of course, the patient, who has the option to choose whether any anesthesia or pain medication will be administered.

Splitting your tongue with the tie-off or fishing line approach is quite painful, and could significantly affect your ability to eat properly. It might take months to complete the tongue split, but it largely depends on the patient’s pain threshold.

Surgeons or body modification practitioners routinely apply local anesthesia to the tongue before using a scalpel, laser, or cauterizing tool. Although it alleviates pain during the procedure, it wears off soon afterwards.

Once the tongue splitting process is complete, it takes an additional one to two weeks to fully heal. In the meantime, day-to-day activities such as eating, drinking, and even talking could aggravate any pain or discomfort.

It’s probably a good idea to avoid spicy, sour, or solid foods as the tongue heals in order to prevent further irritation. Instead, soft foods like ice cream, yogurt, gelatin, broth, scrambled eggs, applesauce, and mashed fruits or vegetables, are preferable. In other words, follow the same kind of diet that a dentist would recommend after a tooth extraction.

Additionally, cold drinks and foods, as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, may offer relief. Just remember to consult a health care provider before starting any new medications.

Tongue bifurcation is an invasive and dangerous procedure that many surgeons advise against. Numerous complications could occur both during surgery and in the recovery process.

Although it’s impossible to eliminate 100 percent of the risks associated with tongue splitting, try to minimize them as much as possible. Don’t attempt to do it at home or with anyone who isn’t a licensed medical professional. 

The main disadvantages of a tongue splitting operation include the potential for:

  • Heavy bleeding

Since the tongue contains several major blood vessels, hemorrhaging and even significant blood loss may occur.

  • Nerve damage

Specific nerves located in the tongue could sustain damage in surgery, permanently affecting the ability to eat, taste, swallow, and talk.

  • Allergic reactions to anesthesia

Some people develop an adverse reaction to local anesthetic. This reaction can range from mild to severe, producing symptoms such as hives, skin rashes, a swollen throat, difficulty breathing, and even seizures, coma, or cardiac arrest.

Medical complications that may arise during recovery from tongue splitting include:

  • Swelling
  • Gum infection
  • Continuous bleeding
  • Wound site infection
  • Excessive scarring on the tongue
  • Gum recession
  • Necrosis of tongue tissues
  • Long-term issues with eating or speaking
  • Difficulty maintaining good oral health
  • Airway blockage
  • Altered tongue placement
  • Poor control of tongue movements
  • Loss of sensation or taste

Tongue splitting is a body modification procedure that creates a lizard-like tongue. Many health care providers strongly advise against tongue splitting, and the operation is illegal in several regions. In other areas, tongue bifurcation may only be done by a certified medical professional due to the serious complications associated with it.

Note that while tongue splitting is reversible, this process could be even more painful than the initial surgery. Before getting a split tongue, be sure to seek the guidance of a qualified provider who can perform it in a professional, sterile, adequate space.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16428238

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27858466

https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/oral-piercing

https://www.bradley.edu/sites/bodyproject/disability/modification/

http://www.bapras.org.uk/docs/default-source/News-cuttings/fds-bapras-joint-statement-on-oral-piercing-and-tongue-splitting-final.pdf?sfvrsn=2

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