The craze for tongue splitting is leaving people open to serious risk of haemorrhage, infection and nerve damage, doctors have warned.
This type of body art which involves cutting a person’s tongue so it has a snake-like image with a split at the end has been condemned in a joint statement from the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS), the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) and the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (Bapras).
They are “concerned that people may be unaware of the risks such procedures carry for their oral health, as well as their wider general health”.
They further warn that, following a recent Court of Appeal ruling, anyone in England and Wales offering tongue splitting is now likely to be doing so illegally.
They note that some people offer tongue splitting as a service alongside regulated procedures such as tattooing and piercing.
However, there is ongoing uncertainty over the legal status of tongue splitting as it is not covered under any existing legislation.
This means the extreme procedure is basically unregulated, they say.
The surgeons also point out that in England and Wales, a Court of Appeal judgment recently found tongue splitting to be illegal, constituting grievous bodily harm, when performed by a body modification practitioner for cosmetic purposes.
This is even in instances where consent has been obtained, according to the medics.
Noting that haemorrhage, nerve damage and bad reactions to anaesthetic are some of the risks, they say in the statement: “We strongly advise people against undergoing a tongue-splitting procedure, and to be aware that in England and Wales body modification practitioners who offer this service are likely to be acting illegally as the law currently stands.
“In addition, as with oral piercings, we stress that members of the public should never attempt to perform a tongue split on themselves or anyone else.”
Selina Master, of the Royal College of Surgeons dental surgery faculty, said dentists had seen some “horrific consequences” of these procedures, adding: “It’s so important that people realise they are putting themselves at serious risk of significant blood loss, infection, nerve damage and problems being able to breathe or swallow.
“In England and Wales, practitioners who offer tongue splitting are doing so illegally as the law currently stands.
“There is an urgent need for the law in other parts of the UK to be clarified.
“The FDS and Bapras are also concerned that, despite the legal debate, the demand for tongue splitting procedures may continue but simply be driven underground.”
Bapras president David Ward said: “No reputable surgeon would undertake
this procedure as it carries high risks, both at the time of the procedure and long-term, there are no medical reasons for doing it, and in England and Wales, and maybe elsewhere in the United Kingdom, is probably illegal.
“Patients undergoing surgery for cosmetic reasons undergo thorough pre-operative assessment, often including psychological evaluation, but practitioners performing tongue splitting will not have the training and skills required for such appraisals, putting their customers at very significant risk.”