Vol.2, No.4

How to care for a tongue piercing

Tongue piercings are among the easiest piercings to care for.

Woman with a tongue piercing
Photo Credit: Chris Schmidt
Properly caring for your tongue piercing minimizes the risk of developing complications associated with infection and improper care regimens. A tongue piercing typically heals in just 2 to 4 weeks. Investing the extra time caring for the piercing during this period ensures you can resume your usual oral activities as quickly as possible.

Care for your newly pierced tongue actually begins with the selection of your jewelry and piercing agent. Acrylic tipped barbells tend to be less damaging to a wearer�s teeth and gum tissue than metal or gemstone accents. Plunging a large, 14 gage needle through your tongue is not a task to be foisted upon a friend. Spend the $40-$75 and hire a professional. Visit a body piercing studio and inquire about their cleanliness and sterilization procedures. You can even contact your health department and find out if the studio you have in mind is in full compliance with local ordinances. Caring for your tongue piercing should never include treatment for a serious disease � such as hepatitis � contracted during the piercing procedure.

It may be a good idea to take ibuprofen before your tongue is pierced. The ibuprofen will not only help to minimize the pain associated with the procedure but also reduce the amount of swelling. Many people expect discomfort associated with pain, but few are aware of how inconvenient it is to have a hugely swollen tongue. Eating, talking and even brushing teeth are difficult for most people after their tongues are pierced. In addition to taking ibuprofen, sucking on ice chips or frozen pops can help. Although it is also nice and cold, avoid ice cream. The dairy may introduce unwelcome bacteria into your mouth which could lead to infection. Swelling can also be minimized by keeping your head positioned well above your heart. During the day, most of us have no problem adhering to this advice. At nighttime, do not lay flat. Support your head with as many pillows as you need to keep your head elevated while sleeping.

Avoid putting anything extra in your mouth while your tongue is healing. Don�t chew on pens, keep your fingers out of your mouth, and try not to smoke. You risk introducing foreign bacteria into your mouth whenever you put something in it. This could result in a dangerous infection. Buy a new toothbrush and start using it right after you get your tongue pierced. Resist the temptation to share eating utensils, food or anything else you put in your mouth with other people. Refrain from engaging in any oral sex during the healing period. This will help your new piercing heal without incident.

Rinsing your mouth regularly is important while your piercing is healing. You will need to use an alcohol-free mouthwash � many of these are available at drugstores in the oral care aisle. A sea salt rinse is also important to maintain good oral health for the first few weeks following your piercing. If you cannot find it at your local drugstore or grocer, ask the professional who pierced your tongue if he carries it. One tablespoon of sea salts dissolved in a cup of warm water should be swished around your mouth for about a minute then spit out. Do this at least twice per day for the first 14-21 days.

Your oral cavity is not likely to become infected because of the presence of saliva. Saliva has many antimicrobial properties since it is part of your body�s first line of defense against disease and bacteria. In addition, the cells lining your mouth are replaced almost twice as fast as the cells that make up your skin and other organs. This means infections don�t have much opportunity to gain a foothold � even with an open wound similar to the one caused by your tongue piercing.

Finally, resist the temptation to play with your new piercing. Don�t bang it against the back of your teeth or chew on it. It can damage your teeth and gums. Leave it in place until you are certain the piercing is healed. The hole on your tongue can close up very quickly if the piercing is removed. Once it is healed, you still will need to mindful about washing your hands before changing your tongue jewelry. It is a good practice to continue keeping foreign objects out of your mouth.

If you have any questions about the proper care of your tongue piercing, ask the professional who pierced it. Many will provide you with written instructions to refer to in the event you experience a problem.