Tongue Splitting

Forking the Tongue

Tongue splitting, also known as forking the tongue, is one of the newest trends in this country. In this procedure, the tongue is divided from the tip toward the back of the tongue for about 3 to 5 cm (1-2 inches), according to patient preference. The result is a bisected tongue, not unlike that of a lizard’s tongue.

Many will wonder, “Why would anyone ever choose to have such a thing done?” Suffice it to say, that we live in a free country. Many men and women across the country have caught onto this trend and tongue splitting has become increasingly popular. At the Loftus Plastic Surgery Center, our goal is not to pass judgment, but to ensure safety for the public. Unless this procedure is offered by a reputable surgeon, those seeking it may be forced to have it in unclean and unsafe environments.

Safety

When performed by a board-certified surgeon in a hospital or surgery center, the procedure can be performed safely and painlessly.

The Procedure

Your surgeon may either use local anesthesia (similar to Novocain used by the dentist) or general anesthesia (in which you will be put completely asleep).

Once the area is numb, your surgeon will then split your tongue down the middle with a knife, cautery, or a laser.

After he or she splits your tongue, there will be open “exposed” tissue of the tongue, which will tend to bleed if not closed. Also, if not closed, your tongue may heal back together. Therefore, your surgeon should sew (suture) the exposed portion to stitch up each side of the split. This will result in less bleeding, less risk of infection, less likelihood of your tongue growing back together and a faster recovery.

Recovery

The first 1-2 days involve moderate discomfort, which can be controlled with prescription pain medication. Associated with this is moderate swelling of the tongue, with difficulty eating and talking. You should eat only very soft foods that require little or no chewing (such as yogurt, milkshakes, soup, etc.) for the first 48 hours or so. As your swelling and discomfort abate, you may introduce other foods. After 1 week, your pain will be minimal, and after 2 weeks it will be resolved. Your speech will be slurred and incomprehensible for the first 2-3 days. Thereafter, it will (usually) return to normal within 2 weeks (a few people develop a lisp, which is usually mild).

Learning to Use Your New Tongue

After you have fully recovered (1-2 weeks), you will have to begin the process of retraining your tongue to do things. You will have to learn how to talk without slurring, and relearn how to control your tongue now that it is split. At first, it will feel
awkward and peculiar. In a short time, it will feel very natural. You may begin using the two halves of your tongue independently. This is possible because each half of the tongue has its own set of muscles. Practicing in front of a mirror will help. Many are able to use the halves independently, wrap the tongue halves around each other, and other feats. Your proficiency in developing independent tongue motion will vary from person to person. In general, the younger you are when you have your tongue split, the better you will be able to develop independent motion.

Average Cost of Tongue splitting (in the U.S.)

The cost ranges from $1000 to $2500 when your procedure is performed by a trained medical professional.

Complications

Some of the most common complications are bleeding, infection, regrowth of the halves of the tongue together, altered taste, loss of sensation and speech abnormalities. If the tongue splitting procedure is performed by a board-certified surgeon, the risk of each of these potential problems is very small. If performed by a body piercer or other non-medical person, your risk of each of these becomes very high.

Changing Your Mind

If you are uncertain about having this procedure, then you are advised NOT to have it. But what if you are certain you want it now, only to find out 5 or 10 years from now that you wish you hadn’t done it? As it turns out, this procedure is reversible. Your surgeon can perform an operation in which he or she removes the healed mucosa on the inside of the fork and then suture the halves back together. Because no tissue was removed during the splitting, the result will appear natural – and no one can tell that you had ever had your tongue split. The recovery is similar to that of the splitting itself.

Of note, tongue splitting is actually easier and more reliably reversed than decorative tattoos.

Perspective

Body piercing and tattooing, once considered to be forms of self-mutilation, are now commonplace. Tongue splitting is now considered by the mainstream to be a form of self-mutilation. As a result, those seeking it are often forced to perform it on themselves or to have it performed by an untrained, non-medical person, such as a tattoo artist or body piercer. This usually results in an unacceptably high rate of complications. When performed by a board-certified surgeon, tongue-splitting is safe.