The Healing Process of a Tongue Piercing (With Pictures)
Tongue Piercing Basics
Tongue piercings are one of the more popular piercings—they're easy to heal and simple to conceal. In general, getting the piercing is relatively pain-free, depending on your tolerance. The level of pain varies for each person.
- Swelling. You tongue will swell for about 8 to 10 days after the initial piercing; the amount of swelling will depend on how far back the piercing is placed (the further back the piercing, the more swelling).
- Eating and speaking. For the first few days, you won't be able to eat solid foods or talk properly.
- Jewelry. The initial jewelry used will be longer to accommodate the swelling. They usually use a straight barbell that's 16 to 18mm long that is either surgical steel or titanium (you get to choose the color). Titanium is best since some people are allergic to surgical steel; your piercer should tell you what allergic reactions to look for. Once the swelling goes down, the long bar will be switched out for a shorter one. They make the shorter ones in other materials, like gold plated steel or acrylic. After the piercing has healed, you can consider using a labret stud or a tongue retainer when you need to hide your piercing.
Things to Avoid While Your Tongue Is Healing
What to Avoid
Eating solid, acidic, sticky, spicy foods.
They might hurt!
You may stretch or tear. Plus, you'll sound funny!
Kissing and any kind of oral activity with girlfriends/boyfriends.
Bacteria threaten healing.
Sticking anything in your mouth, including fingers, pens, etc.
Same as above.
Same as above.
Experimenting with jewelry.
There will be plenty of time to play after it's healed.
Standard Single Tongue PiercingClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Stages of the Healing Process, Day by Day
After piercing, your tongue generally takes from three to four weeks to fully heal. This is one of the fastest-healing piercings, as the enzymes in your saliva help fight infection and kill bacteria.
You'll need to use a good non-alcoholic mouthwash to help clean your mouth, but be careful not to over-clean, which can cause your tongue to turn green or brown. If this happens, just reduce the amount of mouthwash you use and how often you use it.
- Day 1-5: After the first day, you'll experience swelling. The worst of it will be during the first five days, when your speech will be hindered and you may have to alter your diet to mashed potatoes, noodles, and other soft foods. Drinking cold drinks helps. For quicker healing, you should avoid drinking alcohol or hot drinks, smoking, kissing, fiddling with or even touching the barbell, and ibuprofen and aspirin (which can both increase swelling-- use Tylenol instead).
- Day 5-7: The swelling will start to reduce. Some people recover more quickly than others.
- Day 7-10: Swelling should go down by now. When it does, you'll need to have the barbell replaced with a shorter one. The day when you can replace the long barbell for a shorter one will depend on the amount of swelling you experience.
- Day 10-28: It can take 3 to 4 weeks to fully heal.
When Can I Take the Jewelry out of My Tongue and for How Long?
The answer to this question varies from person to person. Tongues heal fast, and even if the piercing is technically healed, it will also heal shut if you leave the jewelry out for an extended period. Some piercings might heal closed almost immediately, after a day or so, while others with well-established piercings say that they can go without jewelry for up to three weeks without worry.
Multiple Tongue PiercingsClick thumbnail to view full-size
How to Reduce the Healing Time of a Tongue Piercing
- Keep the swelling down. Drink ice cold drinks, preferably water.
- Keep it clean. This includes cleaning not only the piercing site, but your whole mouth. Brush at least twice a day. Gargle and rinse after every meal, after you drink something other than water, when you first wake up, and before you go to bed. Use a nonalcoholic and flouride-free antibacterial mouthwash or a glass of water with a teaspoon of sea salt (not iodized table salt!) dissolved in it.
- Wear the right jewelry. Make sure that the barbells are tight: hold the bottom ball still while you twist the top ball clockwise. After the initial swelling reduces, have your piercer change the longer bar out for a shorter one. After this, you don't want to change the jewelry too often, which may irritate the site and prolong healing. Titanium is the least likely material to provoke an allergic reaction.
- Avoid irritants. Don't put your fingers in your mouth. Don't touch, poke, or fiddle with the jewelry. If you talk or chew a lot, rinse your mouth afterwards. Don't drink alcohol, smoke, kiss, or expose your mouth to anything other than food, drinks, mouthwash, toothpaste, and salt water.
- Watch for signs of infection. Of course, infection delays healing, so if you see swelling, redness, angry-looking red streaks, discoloration, or discharge, consult a doctor right away.
Horizontal Tongue PiercingsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Warning Signs of Infection: What to Look For
While you're healing, you may experience the following issues, but don't worry as they will stop once the piercing is fully healed:
- You'll have an excess amount of saliva, which will cause you to swallow more.
- The taste buds on the end of your tongue may be tender, and you may experience tingling or burning.
- You may experience tenderness on the top of your tongue where the ball makes makes a depression, and on the lower webbing area.
- You may notice white fluids excreted by the wound where the piercing is healing, as the dead white blood cells are leaving your body. Normally, the dead blood cells would form a scab, but the saliva in your mouth won't allow a scab to form.
These are the warning signs of infection (see your doctor):
- Swelling. Swelling is normal, especially in the first five days, but if it seems excessive, gets worse, or impedes talking or swallowing, seek treatment.
- Redness or red streaks. Especially if accompanied by swelling, pain, or fever, could be a sign of inflammation and infection.
- Bleeding. If it seems excessive or won't stop.
- Discoloration and discharge. If your tongue looks greenish, purple, yellow, or black, or if you notice any pus or discharge from the piercing, these are signs of infection.
Okay, But How Long Until It's Fully Healed?
Heal time varies, but usually takes about 3-4 weeks.
Venom Tongue PiercingsClick thumbnail to view full-size
FAQs About the Healing Process of Tongue Piercings
How long does it take for it to stop hurting?
Usually, the pain accompanies the swelling, so as soon as the swelling goes down, your pain should subside.
How long will the swelling last?
For most people, the swelling may last a couple days or up to two weeks.
What are the signs of infection I should be looking for?
Excessive swelling, pain, or bleeding that does not reduce after a couple weeks; red streaks or discoloration on the tongue; discharge or pus.
How long until I can take the jewelry out for an hour or more?
After a month of healing, you're probably healed enough to start experimenting with jewelry, but remember that since heal times vary, you'll need to experiment carefully to know how long you can go without any jewelry at all.
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.