Swollen Tongue Piercings

  • Written By Dan Hunter on January 7, 2020
    Last Updated: March 17, 2022

You wake up one morning only to notice your tongue feels a bit strange. After taking a look, you see the onset of some swelling in the area. Oh, no! Your mind starts working overtime. What happened? Is something wrong?

Sit tight. We’ll walk you through the ins and outs of a swollen tongue piercing and how to deal with it.

A tongue piercing can swell because:

  • It’s a new piercing
  • You’ve had an allergic reaction
  • Something has irritated it
  • There’s been a trauma to the area 

Is It Normal for a Tongue Piercing to Swell? 

Swelling after getting a new tongue piercing is normal and to be expected. Your tongue will start to swell within the first few hours of getting it pierced, but the swelling should not prevent you from being able to talk or drink water. Any swelling should subside by the end of the first week. 

If your piercing isn’t new, then it’s quite likely the swelling is caused by either irritation or infection.

Why Is the Tongue Prone to Swelling?

Swelling is your body’s response to an injury, and it increases the flow of white blood cells and fluid to the area. Your tongue has a lot of mucous membranes, which are much more sensitive than healthy skin. This means they’re more likely to become inflamed.

Note that other various lumps and bumps can also pop up around a new tongue piercing that may not be caused by just the regular swelling.

Swelling in an Old Piercing

Like with any other piercing, irritation can occur no matter how long you’ve had it for. This irritation can lead to swelling. Irritation may come from:

  • An allergic reaction to your tongue jewelry
  • A trauma to your tongue, from your piercing
  • Something you ate 
  • Not following correct dental hygiene
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco 

How to Reduce Swelling

A swollen tongue piercing isn’t the most comfortable experience. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help minimize the amount of swelling on your tongue:

  • Use ice
  • Rinse your mouth with saltwater
  • Try to limit talking
  • Stay away from spicy food
  • Avoid chewy or crunchy foods
  • Consider medication


As with any injury to your body, applying ice is an excellent way to alleviate swelling. It’ll limit the amount of blood reaching your tongue and keep the swelling down.

Try and stick to crushed ice. Large ice cubes can irritate skin and have an adverse effect.

Using Salt Water

The swelling may have been caused by an injury to your tongue, from your tongue piercing. If that’s the case, this is a good way to relieve it. The saltwater will keep swelling to a minimum by extracting water — which ordinarily causes inflammation — from cells.

Try to do this after each meal and before you go to sleep. Keeping the wound clean is imperative for protecting yourself against infection. 

You can either mix your own salt water solution together, or buy a store-bought one.

The best aftercare product I’ve personally used is the After Inked Piercing Aftercare Spray. Not only is it vegan, 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.​


This is a difficult one, but if you can manage to limit your talking, it’ll make a difference. Every time we speak, we have to move our tongue. When you’ve got a swelling there, talking too much can cause it to become more irritated. Let it rest, and it’ll heal more rapidly.

No Spicy Food

Spicy food can be harsh on your tongue at the best of times. Combine spicy food with a swollen tongue piercing and… ouch. For your own good, you’ll want to stay off the spicy food, at least until the swelling has subsided.

Stay Away From Difficult Foods

By difficult foods, we mean anything that’s too crunchy, chewy or sticky. All of these foods will involve moving your tongue around a lot to eat them. This will cause more irritation to your already swollen tongue. 


You can also consider taking over-the-counter medication. Ibuprofen is a popular choice to help reduce swelling. 

If your tongue is bleeding, don’t take ibuprofen. Ibuprofen makes it harder for your blood to form clots. If your tongue starts to bleed while you’re taking medication, stop the medication immediately.

Aftercare for Your Swollen Tongue

Taking steps to minimize swelling from your tongue piercing is a priority. However, careful aftercare is also required to get your tongue back to its healthy self again. It’s advisable to:

  • Use a soft toothbrush
  • Use alcohol-free mouthwash
  • Wash your hands before touching your tongue
  • Be vigilant for signs of infection

Signs That Your Tongue Is Infected

Due to the prevalence of bacteria in your mouth, it’s easy for your tongue piercing to become infected. Swelling is one of the first indications that you may have an infection. 

If you notice the swelling is spreading out from the piercing area, this might be a sign it’s infected. An infection will usually be accompanied by other symptoms, such as: 

  • Redness spreading away from the piercing area
  • A warm feeling that doesn’t go away
  • Discharge
  • Bad odor
  • Relentless pain

It’s possible to treat some infections at home. However, it’s recommended to see a doctor to be sure it’s nothing too serious. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

The Road to Recovery 

A new piercing is a common cause of a swollen tongue piercing. However, having an old piercing doesn’t mean you’re immune to it swelling. An older tongue piercing can become swollen due to irritation or infection. 

If you discover your tongue piercing is swollen, it’s important to relieve the swelling and seek medical advice if you’re concerned or in considerable pain. Being proactive when reacting to a swollen tongue piercing is the best way to combat it. With a little bit of extra care, you’ll soon have a healthy piercing again.

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