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Contemporary Piercing Procedure
Permanent body piercings are performed by creating an opening in the body using a sharp object through the area to be pierced. This can either be done by cutting an opening using a needle (usually a hollow medical needle) or by removing tissue, either with a scalpel or a dermal punch. Contemporary body piercing studios generally take numerous precautions to protect the health of the person being pierced and the piercer. Tools and jewelry are sterilised in autoclaves and non-autoclavable surfaces are cleaned with sterilising agents on a regular basis and between clients. Sterile, single use gloves are worn by the piercer to protect both the piercer and the client.
Most professional studios will only pierce with stainless steel or titanium jewelry. Some use one or the other exclusively. Piercers who use titanium exclusively know that even stainless steel can sometimes contain too much nickel to be safe for a piercing. Jewellery made of pure platinum as well as 14k and 18k gold is not considered safe for piercing, but is often used for decorative jewelry when the piercing has healed. However, many piercers also claim that 14k gold contains too much copper, opting for at least 18k for any jewelry piece.
Decorative jewelry bought at retail stores is often highly discouraged by piercers, as much of it contains components that can be irritating or even toxic. Silver in any use or form is also highly discouraged due to the threat of argyria and possible carinogenic effects of various silver compounds. Much like tattoos, it is often much better to avoid bargains and low prices, and instead opt for reasonably expensive jewelry and procedures.
Standard Needle Method
The standard method in involves making an opening using a hollow medical needle. The needle is inserted into the body part being pierced, but not all the way through. While still in the body, the initial jewelry to be worn in the piercing is pushed through the opening, following the back of the needle. Piercing using hollow medical needles does not actually remove any flesh, the method cuts a slit and holds it open in the shape of the cross section of the needle, in this case, a circle. In this method, the needle is the same gauge or larger than the initial jewelry to be worn. Piercings that penetrate cartilage are often pierced one or two gauges larger than the jewelry, to reduce pressure on the healing piercing, allowing for a fistula to properly form. This method is commonly found in the United States.
Indwelling Cannula Method
Many European (and other) piercers use a needle containing a cannula (hollow plastic tube placed at the end of the needle, also see catheter). Procedure is identical to the standard method, only that the initial jewelry is inserted into the back of the cannula and the cannula and the jewelry are then pulled through the piercing. This method reduces the chance of the jewelry slipping during the insertion procedure, and also protects the fresh piercing from possible irritation from external threading (if used) during initial insertion.
Pierce and Taper
Similar to the standard method, this is a more advanced technique, sometimes used to pierce where large gauge initial jewelry is desired. In this method, after the needle is inserted and the opening is created, a tapered steel bar (usually one gauge larger than that of the needle at the large end) is inserted instead of initial jewelry. Then the jewelry is pushed through the opening, following the tapered bar. The success of this method is dependent on the elasticity of the skin in the area being pierced, the skill of the piercer and the type of piercing being done.
In this method, a medical scalpel is used to cut a slit, allowing for the insertion of large gauge jewelry. This method is often used in the creation of large gauge ear piercings. Scalpelling can also be used to correct an improper placement on piercings, an example of this would be cutting existing large gauge ear piercings to match symmetrically. If the jewelry is removed from a scalpelled piercing the fistula may not shrink or close over time and unwanted piercings may have to be surgically repaired. Scalpelling is most commonly used on earlobes, but can be used anywhere where large gauge piercings are desired.
In this method, a dermal punch is used to remove a circular area of tissue, into which jewelry is placed. This method is usually used to remove both skin and cartilage in upper ear piercings, where cartilage must be removed to relieve pressure on the piercing to ensure proper healing and long term viability of the piercing. Like scalpelled piercings, the healed fistulas created or enlarged using a dermal punch will usually not shrink over time.
Piercing guns are commonly used in retail settings to perform ear piercings. These gun-shaped devices are designed for piercing the earlobe only; they are not marketed or designed for use on any part of the body other than the earlobe. Piercing the upper ear (through cartilage) with piercing gun often results in longer healing times, and possible increased discomfort. Many professional body piercers discourage the use of these instruments. A major complaint is that ear piercing instruments perform the piercing using a great deal of force with a relatively blunt (and relatively bad-quality) stud earring. Because of this, it is more difficult to direct the piercing than with a body piercing needle, and healing is prolonged due to the additional trauma involved. The autoclaving of piercing guns is usually impossible, because certain materials used in their construction would be destroyed if autoclaved. Even though they are occasionally used for other purposes, ear piercing instruments are designed for ear piercing only.
A number of piercing shops exclusively use jewelry that is internally threaded. That is, the ball-ends of the jewellery screw into the bar, rather than the bar screwing into the ball. Though more expensive to produce than externally threaded jewelry, piercers who use internally threaded jewelry advise that since the bar that is being inserted into the skin has no sharp threads on the end, it will not cut or irritate skin, and allows for safer healing.
However, in today`s world of body piercing, most manufacturers of quality body jewellery agree that if externally threaded jewellery is going to be used, it must have a tapered end on it so that at the very least, the threads can slip into the back end of the needle, thus protecting the piercees tissue from threading during the initial piercing.
Arguments have arisen that using internally threaded jewelry can be dangerous for the body as occasionally. For example, if a person gets their tongue pierced with an internally threaded barbell and the the threading is not properly screwed down by the piercer or because the piercee continuously plays with the jewellery, they run the risk of swallowing a ball and instead of it passing smoothly through the system as an externally threaded ball would, instead you have a ball with 6 to 8 threads protruding out of it and scraping through your system.