When piercing your tongue, it is important to remember that the tongue is a muscular organ and follows its own unique healing pattern. Don’t treat it like just another piercing!
A tongue ring can be changed when the swelling goes down. You should not change your tongue ring until your tongue is completely healed. Just because the swelling of your tongue goes down does not mean that the wound itself has fully healed. This may take anywhere from two weeks to six weeks. Once healed, limit how often you change your piercing to avoid contamination.
It is tempting to want to change out that obnoxiously long barbell ring from your tongue to a shorter one. Resist the urge to prematurely change your ring to avoid infection.
When Can I Change My Tongue Piercing to a Shorter Bar?
When you first get your tongue piercing, it will be pierced with a bar that is much longer than the width of your tongue. The longer bar is used to accommodate for any swelling. The tongue is a sensitive connective tissue. Once pierced, your mouth will go into shock and will need time to adjust to your piercing. Swelling is common with tongue piercings.
If a smaller bar is used for the piercing, then there is a risk that the tongue could swell and overtop the ends of the bar. The tongue could completely encase the barbell, which would require a painful surgery or incision to remove.
So, when can you switch to a shorter bar? You should definitely wait until at least the swelling has gone down. Some piercers recommend changing the bar after two weeks. Just because the swelling has gone down does not mean that it’s a safe time to swap our rings. It is recommended that you wait a full 4-6 weeks until the tongue is healed.
Prematurely switching your ring could lead to infection. Although the swelling may be down, your tongue may still have an open wound. Switching out bars during the healing phase increases the risk of contamination to the open wound, ultimately leading to infection. An infection could cause your tongue to swell back up.
Unlike other piercings, there is not a huge risk of your tongue hole quickly closing up once you change your piercing. The tongue is a stretchy muscle and can be easily loosened up with a glass of warm tea. Cold will cause your muscles to contract, while warmth will cause them to relax. Drink something warm if you have trouble getting it in.
Why Do I Need to Switch to a Shorter Bar?
Leaving your longer bar in for an extended period of time may actually cause more harm than good. It is important that you closely monitor the healing process of your tongue piercing so that you can switch it out as soon as it is ready. Not only is a long bar downright annoying, but it can also cause damage.
Some reasons why you need to change from a longer bar to a shorter bar as soon as your piercing is healed:
- Enamel Decay: Most tongue piercers use a long metal bar for your tongue ring. Unfortunately, the metal can actually damage the enamel of your teeth. The metals from a typical tongue piercing may adversely react with your piercing and decay your enamel at an accelerated rate. You should switch your piercing to a plastic, stone, wood, horn, or even bone piercing as soon as practical.
- Tooth Damage: The long bar used for piercings is typically longer in length than your teeth. It can easily knock around inside of your mouth and cause chips or fractures to your teeth. There is also a risk of biting your bar, which is not a pleasant experience at all.
- Gum Erosion: Your gums are similarly sensitive to metals. The surface of the metal piercing can rub and react with your gums, ultimately leading to a receding gum line. In severe cases, a receding gum line could cause some uncomfortable root sensitivity issues.
As you can see, it is important to swap out your long, metal bar for a shorter ring that is made of more sensitive material. If you take your bar out too early, then you run the risk of infecting the area. If you take it out too late, then you run the risk of damaging your mouth. The mouth is a sensitive area. Pay close attention to it!
How Long Does It Take to Heal?
The healing process can take anywhere from two weeks to six weeks. Everyone’s body is different. Everyone experiences the healing process differently! The amount of time that it takes for your tongue to heal will also depend upon how well you take care of it. If you ignore your piercing and do not take care of it, then it will likely take longer to heal.
You can expect the healing process to go a bit like this, but results may vary from person to person:
- Days 1 – 7: You will begin to experience swelling quickly after your tongue piercing. This is a normal reaction for your body… don’t panic! You will quickly learn why using a longer bar is so important. It is best to stick to bland foods and water for now. Your piercer may have sold you a special mouth wash. Use this diligently as directed during this stage! Oh, and no oral sex or French kissing!
- Days 7 – 14: The swelling should be subsiding by now. The pain should be subsiding as well. You can transition to harder foods at this point, but still avoid hot drinks, as hot beverages may cause swelling. You can reduce your mouthwashes per day. It is best to continue following the mouthwash directions from your piercer.
- Days 14 – 21: You may think you are in the clear at this point as the pain and swelling is gone (for most). Some piercers will tell you that it is okay to swap out your long bar for a shorter bar at this point, but it is advised that you keep it in until fully healed. Although swelling may have subsided, it is unlikely that the wound itself has fully healed. Switching out your piercing may cause an infection!
- Days 21 – 42: You should not have pain or swelling at this point. If you do, then you should reach out to your piercer. You may have an infection. Otherwise, most tongue piercings will undergo the final stages of healing. Once you feel completely confident that your wound has healed, it is safe to swap your ring out!
As said previously, everyone experiences the healing timeline differently. This is a general timeline based on the feedback of others who have had their tongues pierced. Do not panic if you are off this schedule by a couple of days. You should reach out to your piercer if you fall far behind on the healing schedule. You may have an infection!
How Do I Care for My Tongue Piercing?
Caring for your tongue piercing is not horribly different than caring for any other piercing. The difference here is that you will have to be careful with what you eat and drink. Aside from that, the same cleaning practices hold true to your tongue ring.
For starters, rinse your mouth with the mouth wash sold to you by your piercer as directed. If your piercer did not sell you a mouth wash, then you may use a warm saltwater solution, an alcohol-free mouthwash, or an antibacterial mouthwash. It is recommended that you rinse your mouth after every meal, in the morning, and at night.
Tongue rings are infamous for increasing oral pleasure. Although it may be tempting to try out your new tongue toy, avoid French kissing and oral sex until completely healed. An open wound should never be in contact with the male or female genitalia. Similarly, bacteria from your partner’s mouth could transfer to yours when French kissing.
When healing, take small bites of soft food to avoid anything getting lodged into your new piercing. Foods with too much spice may irritate your piercing and cause more swelling. Hot foods or beverages may additionally cause swelling. Be sure to talk and chew as gently as possible until you get used to your new piercing.
What Is So Special About the Tongue?
Unlike other bodily tissues that you can have pierced, the tongue is a muscular organ covered with a special pink tissue called the mucosa. Tiny little bumps cover the tongue called papillae. Papillae are often confused with taste buds. Papillae themselves are not your taste buds, although the papillae are covered with thousands of taste buds.
The tongue is also densely covered with blood vessels, which means the piercing may cause a lot of bleeding. Swelling from a tongue piercing can make it difficult to breathe. Individuals with heart conditions should consult with their doctor, as the wound on the tongue can deliver bacteria through your system that ultimately damages the heart.
The mouth in general is a special place as it heals faster than any other part of your body. The mouth is full of microbes and bacteria, so the body has adapted over time to mend its wounds as quickly as possible before an infection sets in. Two special healing proteins have evolved over the years to hasten the healing process.
The tongue is a unique muscular organ that requires special care. Be prepared for swelling followed by pain. You must also mentally prepare yourself for the annoyance of the longer piercing bar. Once the healing process has been completed, which is usually between two to six weeks, it is safe to switch out your ring to a shorter piece.
As with all piercings, be sure to clean it regularly to prevent infection. A regular cleaning schedule will result in a quicker healing process and will allow you to swap out your long bar for a shorter one sooner. Be mindful of what you eat and drink. Use mouthwash after meals and before and after you sleep. With these tips, your tongue is sure to heal up in no time at all!