How to Care for a Tongue Ring
Many times, young people get a tattoo or body piercing because they think this is a great way to “express their individuality,” it’s cool, or in the case of girls “it’s cute.” Some even have the thought that by getting a piercing, they have rebelled against their parents or society. Sadly, not many will put much thought into what comes after they get their piercing.
Any piercing is going to require some aftercare to prevent infections. With a tongue piercing, however, this is especially true. Not only is your mouth a very dirty place, making your new piercing that much more prone to infections, but a tongue piercing can also lead to dental problems like tooth chipping and receding gum lines if it is not properly cared for.
While everyone is different, and our bodies heal at a different rate, the general consensus is that it will take between four and six weeks for your tongue to heal after it has been pierced. You need to pay special attention to it during this time, and there are things you should do during this period, as well as things you should avoid doing.
Don't Play With It
It is easy to tell who has a new tongue piercing, because you will see their tongue ring everywhere but inside their mouth where it belongs. When you just get pierced, it is hard to avoid playing with it—running it across your lips, sticking it one of the balls out and holding it with your lips, flipping it around, chewing and biting on the ball, etc. However, until your tongue heals, you really need to keep it inside your mouth. You are not used to having a tongue ring, and it is very easy to pull it, ripping and tearing the new hole in your tongue. You also run the risk of biting it, or hitting it against your tooth, and chipping your tooth, which can be a very painful experience.
Watch What You Eat
Eating soon after your get your tongue pierced can present a problem that you never even considered. Now, you have an object in your mouth that you aren’t used to chewing around, and that tends to stick to some foods. For the first few weeks after getting pierced, do yourself a favor and avoid eating things that can be described as “stringy.” This includes foods like pizza (where the cheese is melted) and spaghetti (with the long noodles), as this type of food has a tendency to wrap around your tongue ring, and stay there, even after you swallow. You will also want to avoid foods that come in handy little circle shapes such as Cherrios, Spaghetti O’s and Apple Jacks. These nice neat little circles can slip over the ball of your tongue ring, leaving you to pull and tug on them to get them off. In all that pulling and tugging, you are likely to rip the slowly healing hole in your tongue, leaving you to start all over in the healing process. Also avoid foods that are hard such as candy or pretzels. It is easy to mistake the ball of your tongue ring, with that piece of candy. And if you bite down to hard on the ball, you can easily chip and break your tooth.
Go Easy Casanova
Let’s just be honest here, one of the exciting aspects of a tongue ring is the excitement of your partner. But you want to take it easy, and keep your tongue off limits until it has healed. You yourself aren’t used to the new addition, and your significant other is going to be even more unfamiliar with it. This goes for everything all the way down to simple kissing. If your tongue is backing out of someone else’s mouth as their lips are closing, expect to find yourself in some pain. Give your tongue a break and time to heal, and tell your partner no.
Don't Go There
One of the worst things that you can do with your new tongue ring is to use your fingers to play with it. Think of all the things your fingers touch in a day’s time. Your hands are covered in germs and bacteria that can cause your tongue to become infected. Don’t randomly reach into your mouth during the day to play with it.
Ensure the Balls Are Tight
The only time your hands should enter your mouth is right before you go to bed. The balls can naturally become loose as you go through your day to day activities, and these balls are what hold the barbell in place. If you lose a ball, and the barbell slips out, it can be extremely painful to slide another one in, as your tongue is already swollen and sore. It is not as uncommon as you think for people to accidentally swallow a ball while sleeping. So to make sure everything stays put, very careful tighten the balls before you go to bed at night.
It Is Not a Tooth
People make the mistake of thinking that they need to brush their new ring, or around the ring, in an effort to keep it clean. Don’t do that. When you drag your toothbrush across the ring, it will pull the ring, and can rip the hole. It is not a tooth; it does not need to be brushed.
All You Need Is... Mouthwash?
Mouthwash should become your best friend for the next four to six weeks. You should keep a large bottle in your bathroom at home, and a small travel sized bottle in your desk at work, in your purse, or in your pocket. It is very important that you rinse your mouth as often as you can, and especially after eating and drinking. Mouthwashes will aide in killing off the germs and bacteria in your mouth that can lead to infection.
Yup, It's Swollen
It is absolutely natural for everyone to experience some level of swelling right after getting their tongue pierced. Swelling begins within minutes of getting pierced, and can continue over the course of the next few days. It is also common for the swelling to be at its worse in the morning when you first wake up. If it’s okay with your doctor, you can take some an anti-inflammatory medicine like Ibuprofen. During the day, or if an anti-inflammatory drug isn’t for you, you can reduce the swelling by letting some ice sit on your tongue. Note: let it SIT on your tongue, do not chew it or suck on it.
Four to six weeks is the time that most people who have a tongue ring report being cautious with care and cleaning. That does not mean that your tongue will be completely healed at the end of that time, however. It can actually take up to a year for your body to form a callus around the hole in your tongue, making it less prone to ripping and tearing. You will have to judge for yourself when your body is ready for you to be less careful.
If you find that your tongue remains swollen for longer than the average three days, or you are experiencing pain or burning, it may be a good idea to go see your doctor, as you could very well have an infection. Although it is rare, there have also been cases of people getting a piercing only to find out that they are allergic to the steel used in the barbell or the plastic that coats the colored balls. A reaction such as this can be very painful as well, and you should remove your tongue ring completely and see your doctor.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.