It might be tempting to remove your barbell or stud after a couple of weeks. A tongue piercing can be fun to get, but it also impacts your oral health in some ways. You might not want it banging into the back of your teeth.
Even if you’ve had the stud or barbell in for the entire time, it takes at least six to eight weeks before the initial piercing heals. That means you’ll need to keep the component in place the whole time.
Some people have a slower healing process. You would need to wait for at least ten weeks in those circumstances.
What is unique about a tongue piercing is that the body heals once the stud or barbell gets removed. If you take it out too soon, the hole could be gone by the end of the day.
How Long Does It Take for a Tongue Piercing to Close?
The amount of time it takes for a tongue piercing to close relies on several factors. Its age is the most crucial component because it takes longer to heal when you’ve had it for some time along with oral hygiene, immune system strength, and your overall metabolism. It could be a few minutes or a few months.
If your tongue piercing is new, it can close in as little as a few hours. That’s why it is essential to keep a stud in place according to the instructions provided by your piercing professional.
Once you’ve had the tongue piercing for at least a year, it can take several days to a few weeks to close entirely.
For those who stretch their tongue piercing with a large gauge, it might not ever close entirely because of the gap size created.
It’s not safe to change your jewelry at any time for the first six weeks after receiving this piercing. If you’re unsure of how to proceed, the best practice is to listen to your body. Not only can the hole close in minutes if you do it too soon, but you also increase the risk of an infection developing.
It is a best practice to have your piercer remove the jewelry the first time a change occurs. They can respond appropriately if the healing process initiates.
What Can I Expect After a Tongue Piercing?
The issue with a tongue piercing is that a wound gets created in one of the places where the bacteria thrive. It is challenging to keep it clean, which means your infection risks are significantly higher than other spots on the body.
When you add food and sugary beverages into that mix, the risk of infection development increases even further.
That’s why it is crucial to understand the healing phases of a tongue piercing. Since the process is slightly different for everyone, the various stages are considered waypoints instead of a guaranteed outcome.
It might take a little more or less time to achieve the results listed below.
▪️ First Healing Stage: 24 to 72 Hours After
The wound feels irritated and sore right after the piercing. It’s not unusual for people to have trouble adapting to the new sensations in their mouths, especially when speaking. The goal should be to avoid touching the area or knocking the new component into the teeth as these actions cause pain.
It might be necessary to put food directly into the teeth to chew during this healing stage. Some people find it is easier to consume liquid foods, such as smoothies, until the discomfort starts to fade.
You must rinse your mouth with a saline solution several times per day to ensure that the piercing starts healing. The best option is to use iodine-free salt with eight ounces of warm water.
It only takes 1/4-teaspoon of salt to clean the area. Unless your piercer or doctor recommends a different treatment, don’t antibiotic creams or a more robust solution.
You’ll want to get a new toothbrush after your tongue piercing. This extra step further reduces the risk of introducing bacteria into the wound.
▪️ Second Healing Stage: 4 to 10 Days After
You’ll notice the swelling continuing to increase for the first few days after getting your tongue piercing. Some people have that process continue for 7-10 days.
The wound might ooze or bleed from the barbell or stud. A small amount is considered normal, but it shouldn’t be a constant flow.
Some people might see a white or clear fluid coming from the wound after a few days. If there aren’t signs of infection, this outcome is considered normal.
You’ll know an infection is present because the area is red, inflamed, and hot to the touch. There might be chills or a fever with the symptoms experienced in the mouth.
Once the swelling starts to decrease, have your piercer replace the initial jewelry with something shorter. This step reduces irritation and the risk of damaging your teeth. Please remember always to wash your hands and use new, sterile jewelry meant for the tongue.
Your infection risks are quite high during this stage of the healing process. If you experience worsening pain, fever, intense swelling, or pus discharge, you’ll want to speak with your doctor or a trusted medical professional about your symptoms.
▪️ Third Healing Stage: 10 to 30 Days After
When you get a tongue piercing, it’s important to remember that the body heals from the outside to the inside. That means the outer layer of tissues will start to heal first.
Although that means your piercing will look less irritated, the interior tissues are still sensitive to pressure and touch.
At this stage, it shouldn’t be as painful. Most people start feeling normal by the start of the second week. A few might need a little extra time to adapt to how the piercing causing them to eat or talk.
Since a tongue heals quickly, you cannot remove the piercing at this stage. If you do, the hole could close. It only takes a few minutes in this healing stage for that to happen.
If you must remove the jewelry, you’ll want to have your piercer help with the task. They can help the hole stay open, although you’ll likely need to pay for this service.
▪️ Fourth Healing Stage: 31 to 60 Days After
When you think about a tongue piercing, it helps to view it as a scar. It takes time for this barrier to form, and you need to be patient with the healing process.
Although you can maximize the time by getting enough sleep at night and eating healthy foods, you cannot go faster than what your body’s metabolism can handle.
If you don’t have any complications from the piercing, you should have it completely healed in six weeks or less. Some people have swelling after a month, which is a potential symptom of an infection.
When your tongue piercing seems to be improving, but then it reverses course to become swollen or painful, those symptoms also indicate that an infection developed.
You’ll want to clean your tongue using the saline solution while discussing treatment options with your doctor.
If you don’t have any swelling or discomfort, your tongue piercing is ready to transition to the final healing stage.
▪️ Fifth Healing Stage: 61 Days to One Year
Once you reach this stage, your body treats the tongue piercing as a healed scar. That means it is less likely to close if you pull the jewelry out of it.
That also means your risk factors for developing an infection plummet. Although some people with weak immune systems, poor oral hygiene, or injuries might still be vulnerable, you’ll have more freedom to change your look or experiment with different styles.
You’ll still have the issue of the piercing knocking into your teeth to manage. This problem happens more often when a tongue bar is used instead of a simple stud. Even if you don’t break a tooth, the irritation from its movement can lead to gum infections.
Some other risks to consider once you’ve reached the final stage of the healing process include the following concerns.
- You could accidentally swallow the jewelry, leading to a throat or stomach injury. If the piece is large enough, it could present with a choking threat.
- Some people experience receding gums on the inside of their mouths.
- A condition called Ludwig’s angina occurs, which is a rare skin infection underneath the tongue.
- The body could reject the piercing or develop an allergy to the materials, leading to further complications.
HIV and tetanus can spread when piercers don’t use sterilized needles or new, clean jewelry. It would be best to verify that each package is unopened before allowing anything to touch your body.
In very rare instances, an infection from a tongue piercing can spread to other organs or the blood. This issue can be life-threatening, so it helps to treat the condition as soon as it gets detected.
Home Remedies to Consider When Treating a Tongue Piercing
Most piercings don’t need any special medications or treatments. As long as you rinse with an appropriate saline solution a few times per day during the early healing stages, you should be able to avoid an infection.
Although I appreciate the benefits of a good home remedy, I’d recommend following the instructions given by the piercer or your doctor.
I like to use an organic Kosher product for my saline solutions. With High Quality Organics Express salt, you receive a 100% USDA-certified product that comes from sustainable farming methods. It’s guaranteed to be free of pesticides and herbicides. It’s about as close to the briny flavor from ocean water as you can get.
It also helps to stop smoking. I’ve found that avoiding all stimulants is helpful during the first two healing stages, although I’ll drink some coffee if I’m having a tough morning. The goal here is to avoid using something someone else already used because you don’t know where their mouth has been.
It helps to brush the teeth regularly, rinse the mouth after each meal, and minimize how much you talk.
If you encounter an infection, don’t try to treat it at home. Even if you have it heal, it can lead to severe scarring problems with your tongue.
It is time to see a doctor when you encounter any of the following symptoms during any stage of the healing process.
- There is unusual tissue growth or swelling in the mouth.
- You can see yellow or green pus coming out of the piercing hole.
- A foul odor comes from the tongue, even after brushing your teeth and using the saline solution.
- The piercing constantly bleeds.
- You have the signs and symptoms of an infection, including swollen glands, new swelling, intense pain, or a fever.
- Your teeth hurt.
- You’ve noticed strange swelling or “lumps” in your gums.
It is essential to remember that a piercer’s advice isn’t a substitute for what your doctor can offer.
A Final Thought on Tongue Piercings and the Healing Process
My family has trouble with metal allergies. It’s something that goes back as far as my grandmother, and it might even be something passed along from even earlier.
Almost no one in my family wears jewelry. My mother doesn’t even wear earrings, although she gave it a try once when my father gave her a set of diamond studs for their anniversary one year.
That’s why I avoid the metal barbell studs, even if they’re made with surgical steel or sterling silver. It doesn’t take long for the itching to start, followed by some swelling that makes you think an infection is developing.
That’s why I invest in the LCOLYOLI Acrylic Straight Tongue Barbells. You get 36 different looks with acrylic posts and tops that are easy to unscrew. They’re guaranteed to be nickel-free and hypoallergenic, although anyone with an acrylic allergy would want to avoid them. The items come unused, backed by a 90-day guarantee.
Piercing your tongue can make a statement. When you know how to care for it, you won’t need to worry about it closing prematurely.