Tongue piercing is a form of body modification with its fair share of gothic appeal. It is a great way to make a statement and has a unique charm if worn correctly. Choosing to get your tongue pierced is a bold step. In the U.S, only 16% of the men, and 9.2% of the women have had their tongue pierced. However, most of the people I know who have gone through this process tell me that the pain during the healing process is more than the pain experienced when getting the punch.
The healing process
Unlike the cartilage piercing, the tongue is all flesh and blood vessels. Worse of all, it is located in the mouth and we all know that we can’t keep our mouth shut for months on end until the piercing heals (no eating, no kissing, no talking?). This reality is what fuels the anxiety of most people interested in tongue piercing. Furthermore, tongue piercings can be particularly troublesome due to the numerous blood vessels located in the tongue.
The truth is, tongue piercing takes about 3 to 6 weeks healing time. The healing process is surprisingly fast compared to other piercings such as cartilage piercing. At the same time, it is important for you to listen to your body. Everybody heals differently. The healing process is significantly affected by:
- Your health, including your body’s immune response
- Your commitment to aftercare
- Your oral hygiene
From Day 1 to Day 10: Your tongue is swollen, and you have difficulty speaking. The degree of swelling depends on how far back the jewelry has been placed. There is a lot of pain at this stage and your tongue probably feels heavy and sore. Also, you are unable to eat solid food.
You will probably notice the swelling beginning to subside from the 7th day. From day 10 to 14, you can replace the big long barbell used by your piercer with a shorter one. It is advisable to replace the long jewelry with a shorter one for the sake of your teeth. The long barbell can damage the teeth, and also makes it hard to eat. There is plastic jewelry on the market that you can consider in place of the long barbell.
From day 14 to 21, the swelling is history now and the tongue has completely healed. Some people can go up to day 28 before the tongue completely heals. Remember that healing varies from person to person.
Aftercare required as it heals
The healing process for your new piercing depends a lot on the care you give it. After getting the piercing, it is advisable to use an anti-bacterial mouthwash that does not have alcohol or a saline solution (we recommend Colgate® Total® Advance Pro Shield™). This is because a mouthwash with high alcohol content or saline solution will over dry the tongue and delay healing. Also, do not use hydrogen peroxide or povidone-iodine as they are harmful to the healing tissues. Use the mouthwash after meals. It is advisable to avoid smoking until the piercing completely heals.
Get a new toothbrush. Your old toothbrush may trigger infections as it already has some bacteria in it. It is important to practice your oral hygiene by brushing at least twice a day. On the same note, remember to gargle and rinse out your mouth in case you eat or drink something other than water. Gargle for 30 to 60 seconds. Rinse your mouth every morning when you wake up and before you go to bed. Lastly, as you clean your teeth, remember to brush your jewelry with a toothbrush. This will help remove all plague from your mouth.
Avoid solid foods at least during the 1st week or 10-14 days after getting the piercing. Stick to soft foods such as mashed potatoes and a liquid diet (soups, broths). Avoid eating anything sticky, acidic, or spicy foods. These foods delay healing and will lead to pain.
Video: 5 Hours after piercing it
How to promote faster healing – Do’s and Don’ts
According to the Association of Professional Piercers, over the counter medications, such as Ibuprofen or naproxen sodium can help ease the pain during the healing process. However, avoid aspirin or any pain reliever containing this ingredient as it will trigger bleeding. They also recommend that you take B-vitamins, vitamin C, Zinc and Iron Supplements to help fasten the healing process.
Drink ice cold drinks, and cold water. This will help minimize the swelling and speed up healing. You can crush some ice cubes, take some of the ice bits and place them in your mouth to melt. Do not suck on them as this may be uncomfortable. Allowing them to melt is the best approach.
Avoid irritating the piercing either by touching it or fiddling with the jewelry. Remember that the piercing is like a wound, therefore, it is advisable to evade irritating it by taking alcohol, kissing, or unnecessary movements (e.g. frequent chewing).
Overusing mouthwash, or cleaning too often does not help the healing process. On the contrary, over-cleaning delays healing.
Remember to check the tightness of the jewelry using freshly washed hands. The jewelry is likely to get loose as you go about your day. You need to wash your hands thoroughly using an antibacterial soap and hot water, then tighten the jewelry in case it is loose.
Be alert and watch for signs of infection. As a rule of thumb, discoloration, pus emanating from the piercing, excess saliva, or a burning sensation of the taste buds, are all telltale signs of an infection.
|What to DO||The Don’ts|
|Take cold drinks and ice to help with the swelling||Don’t indulge in hot, spicy, salty, acidic foods. Also, don’t indulge on anything sticky, such as peanut butter or Caramel.|
|Practice proper oral hygiene using a gentle toothpaste, a brand new toothbrush, and a non-alcoholic based mouthwash.||Don’t share eating utensils (plates, cups, spoons). This will help you minimize the risk of infections.|
|Avoid touching, licking, fiddling or any unnecessary oral movements as they will delay healing.||Don’t smoke, or take any recreational drugs as they prolong healing.|
|Replace the jewelry in your mouth with a shorter barbell after 4-5 days (the time varies from person to person).||Caffeine, Aspirin and alcohol are big No’s at this time.|
|Look for a professional piercer and ask as many questions as you can before getting the piercing (e.g if you have any metal allergies, this is the best time to inquire).||Avoid biting the jewelry when eating. You can do this by going for small bites. Place the bites on your molars using clean fingers or a fork.|
|It is advisable to schedule regular dental check-ups to avoid issues such as a cracked tooth or receding gums.||Don’t remove or change the jewelry on your own until it completely heals. Removing the jewelry, or leaving the piercing without the jewelry for a prolonged period of time will lead to the sealing of the piercing.|
|Avoid oral sexual contact or romantic gestures that involve the tongue.||Don’t excessively clean or rinse your mouth. This will destroy the natural enzymes in the mouth leading to discoloration of the tongue.|
If care for your tongue piercing correctly, then you are likely to go through the healing process with relative ease. At the same time, proper oral care will help minimize the risk of infection.
- John L. Pfenninger, Grant C. Fowler. Pfenninger and Fowler’s Procedures for Primary Care E-Book: Expert Consult, Elsevier Health Sciences, 2010