Tongue Piercing Healing Process & Care Guide

  • Written By Dan Hunter on July 15, 2018
    Last Updated: October 18, 2020

Tongue piercings are one of those piercings that really make a statement, but only if you look after them properly. The tongue piercing healing stages are extremely important, and you should take care as best as you can throughout this initial phase.

You want an awesome tongue piercing, right? Then you need to know the healing stages and aftercare routines offered within this guide. The only way to keep your new piercing looking its best is to keep it clean and healthy.


Stages of the Tongue Piercing Healing Process

Day 1: Cleaning commences

The very first day, you may not notice much swelling yet, but you should still be mindful of the piercing as it will likely be quite sore and tender. Taking great care, and being as gentle as possible with your new piercing from day one will prevent any unnecessary tongue pain and swelling in the following days.

The most important thing is to keep your tongue piercing clean. You can start using sea salt rinses on the day you get your tongue pierced. Salt is a mild antiseptic. Be sure to use warm water when dissolving the salt.

Day one is the day to learn how to make your saltwater mouth rinse. Just warm one cup of distilled water and mix it with ¼ tsp of sea salt. Kosher salt can also be used, as long as you make sure it dissolves fully. If you’d rather not make your own solution up, there are plenty of pre-made solutions available on the market.

The best aftercare product I’ve personally used is the After Inked Piercing Aftercare Spray. Not only is it vegan-friendly, but it’s also completely alcohol and additive-free. The solution works well on all skin types including sensitive skin, and it comes in a generously-sized mist-spraying bottle for easy application. When using it from the very start of the healing process, the spray helps to decrease healing times and aims to eliminate any lingering pain or soreness.

It’s okay to eat and drink on the first day of having a new tongue piercing. Just keep in mind that you need to be gentle to prevent excess swelling or infections. Stick to cool or lukewarm liquids and soft foods that are easy to chew.

Days 2-10: Swelling and oozing

Once you’ve made it through day one, it’s more of the same. Your tongue will be swollen for about 5 to 10 days, so go easy with what you eat. The piercing may also bleed or ooze a clear discharge. This is fine and normal, but watch out for colored or foul-tasting discharge, as this could indicate an infection.

In the meantime, don’t eat or drink anything too hot. Your tongue is already going to be a little sore, and you don’t want it to be burnt and swollen. Also, eating cold foods or drinking ice water may help to reduce the swelling.

You also want to avoid foods that are irritating to wounds, which is exactly what your new piercing is. That includes acidic foods, like oranges and lemons, alcohol, and spicy foods. After each time you eat, use an antiseptic mouthwash (or water) to rinse your mouth.

Days 11-30: External healing

Piercing will always heal from the outside first, as this is the body’s way of sealing itself against external threats. This is important to note as although it may look as though your piercing has already healed towards the end of the first month, it will still very likely be healing deeper down within the wound.

Luckily, by this stage in the healing process, the pain should have greatly subsided and your tongue should be feeling close to normal again.

Weeks 4-6: Scar tissue formation

A piercing is essentially a tunnel of scar tissue, and it can take a long time for this scar tissue to completely form.

If there are no disruptions to your aftercare process, complete healing normally takes about 4–6 weeks. If after this length of time you’re still getting lingering redness, pain or swelling then it may be worth getting the site checked out by a doctor to rule out infection.

Long-term care

While the most important stages are over, it’s still vital to keep your oral hygiene levels high, as infections can still occur after the initial healing has finished. It’s also important to watch out for other mouth issues after getting a piercing, as tongue bars can sometimes cause infected gums, broken teeth or bone shifting if you’re not careful.

Double Tongue Piercing

When Can I Stop Cleaning My Tongue Piercing?

After 6 to 8 weeks, most tongue piercings will be fully healed. However, this doesn’t mean you can stop cleaning your tongue piercing. You should always make sure you’re keeping your mouth and jewelry as clean as possible.

A tongue piercing infection can develop at any time, even if you’ve had your piercing for years. That’s because tiny sores can develop and let in bacteria if your piercing gets pulled on or injured.

On the other hand, after the healing process is over and your tongue piercing is no longer an open wound, you can reduce the amount of cleaning down to brushing and flossing your teeth, and using mouthwash about once a day.

You will no longer need to use a salt water rinse at this point, but it’s still a good idea to rinse your mouth with water after eating. If any sign of irritation develops, or if your piercing is injured, you can use salt water to clean it out and prevent infection.

What Not to Do During Healing

Nobody likes a long list of things NOT to do. But if you avoid a few activities during the healing process, your tongue piercing will heal much more easily and quickly.

Don’t play with the jewelry

Keep your hands out of your mouth. Those hands pick up bacteria everywhere you go. Touching, playing with, or excessively adjusting your tongue jewelry creates opportunities for additional bacteria to build up and pose an infection threat.

And it’s not just your hands either. Don’t chew on anything (such as fingernails, pencils, or even gum), and don’t bite down on the jewelry or run it along your teeth. That’s bad for the tongue piercing and your teeth.

Don’t give oral sex or make out

I know, this one’s a bummer. But while you’ve got a healing wound in your mouth, you don’t want to put other people’s body fluids or skin microorganisms in there.

Most of the time, the saliva from your partner’s kiss isn’t a big deal. You might catch a cold from them. However, sharing right now poses the risk for a tongue piercing infection to form, and you absolutely don’t want that.

You can get back to the oral sex and all the other fun stuff once your piercing has completely healed.

Don’t smoke

Smoke from cigarettes or marijuana will irritate your new tongue piercing. If you’re a smoker, you’re going to need to wean yourself off prior to getting your tongue pierced, and don’t start up again until it’s fully healed at about 2 months.

Tongue Piercing

Replacing Your Tongue Piercing Jewelry

After the initial swelling has gone down entirely, at about 7 to 10 days, you can return to your piercer and have the long curved barbell replaced with a shorter one.

You no longer need the longer piece of jewelry after the swelling is gone and your tongue has returned to its normal size.

In fact, leaving it in can make it more likely that you accidentally bite down on the jewelry or tap it against your teeth, so you should return to your piercer to have it changed out.

Risks and Symptoms to Look Out For

Although tongue piercings are fast healers compared to other piercings, they are, unfortunately, very prone to infection due to the huge amount of bacteria that lives and breeds within the mouth (and this is why oral hygiene is so important).

If you develop any of the below symptoms while your tongue piercing is healing, arrange to see a doctor as soon as possible:

  • severe swelling
  • severe pain
  • Severe or worsening redness
  • foul-tasting or colored discharge

Your doctor will likely prescribe a course of antibiotics to help treat the infection.

It should be noted that if you do contract an infection, you shouldn’t remove your piercing jewelry, as this will cause the hole to close up and trap the bacteria inside to cause more damage.

When to See a Doctor

Whenever you think you may have acquired an infection around your piercing, you should seek advice from a medical professional. This is especially important if you begin to present with systematic symptoms such as fever or chills, as this might indicate that the infection has spread beyond the original area.

Summary

Tongue swelling and difficulty talking are normal parts of the healing process. However, you don’t want to prolong those symptoms or make them any worse, so follow the aftercare procedures that your piercing professional recommended.

After 2 months of careful nurturing, you’ll have a piercing that’ll look great for many years to come.