When a tongue piercing heals correctly, the body treats the wound like a scar.
People’s bodies are all different, so the healing process varies from person to person. People with weak immune systems due to diabetes, cancer, HIV, and some medications may need longer to heal and can also be more vulnerable to infection.
In general, a person can expect to experience the following stages as their tongue piercing heals:
After the piercing: Days 1–3
Immediately after the piercing, the wound may feel very sore and irritated. A person might have trouble talking and adapting to the new sensation in the mouth. However, they should avoid touching the piercing or knocking the piercing with the teeth, as this can increase irritation.
At first, it may be necessary to put food directly on the teeth in order to chew. Some people also choose to consume smoothies or other liquid foods for the first few days, until they adjust to eating with the jewelry in place.
In these early days, it is vital to rinse the mouth with a saline solution several times each day. Most piercers recommend using a quarter teaspoon of iodine-free salt mixed in 8 ounces of warm water. Do not use stronger solutions or antibiotic creams unless a doctor recommends it. Follow all instructions the piercer gives.
Also, use a new toothbrush after getting a new tongue piercing. This reduces the risk of accidentally introducing additional bacteria to the site.
Swelling and inflammation: Days 4–10
The swelling tends to increase for several days after the piercing, and it may last for a week or slightly longer. The wound may also bleed or ooze. A small amount of bleeding is normal, but consistent bleeding may signal a problem. After a few days, the wound may also ooze a whitish or clear fluid.
When the swelling decreases, replace the jewelry with a shorter piece of jewelry. Leaving longer jewelry in place increases irritation and may damage the teeth. It is safest to have a piercer do this.
Before touching the piercing, always wash the hands thoroughly and only use sterile, new jewelry intended for the tongue.
The risk of infection is very high during this stage. Some symptoms of infection include:
Early healing: Days 10–30
Piercings heal from the outside in, which means that the outermost tissue of the tongue heals first. This means that while the piercing may look less irritated, it is actually still healing for a month or longer.
By this stage in the healing process, it should have become less painful and will start to feel relatively normal. However, a person may still need time to adapt to the piercing.
Tongues heal quickly, which means that the piercing may close if a person removes the jewelry, even for a short period of time.
Scarring and complete healing: Weeks 4–6
A piercing is essentially a scar, and it takes time for this scar to form.
If there are no complications, complete healing usually takes around 4–6 weeks. If there is still swelling after a month, or if the piercing becomes painful or swollen after a period of seeming fine, this may signal an infection or other problem.
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