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No pain, no gain. Even if you weren't fighting back tears when the piercer stuck the needle through your tongue, you'll likely experience some pain in the days following your tongue piercing as your tongue swells and lightly bruises. Taking proper care of your piercing and your body is the best way to get pain relief and avoid infection.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Pain and Swelling
Pain is a side effect of any piercing, especially a tongue piercing. Experiencing significant swelling, light bleeding, bruising and tenderness is normal within the first three to five days, according to the Association of Professional Piercers. After five days, you may still experience a secretion of a white-colored fluid along with some swelling. If your tongue swelling does not go down, you have difficulty breathing or you have a foul-smelling discharge, contact a medical professional, but do not remove your tongue jewelry.
- Pain is a side effect of any piercing, especially a tongue piercing.
Things to Avoid
How to Get Rid of Swollen Taste Buds
If you want to avoid further pain, you may have to give up some of your favorite foods and activities during the healing process. Avoid spicy, acidic and salty foods or stringy foods that may get caught on your tongue piercing. Don't drink alcoholic beverages and steer clear of hot liquids, which may burn the tongue. Because you need to keep your mouth as clean as possible, you cannot engage in open-mouth kissing or oral sex until your piercing is healed, says the Association of Professional Piercers. Likewise, you will have to kick habits including smoking, biting your nails, chewing gum or chewing on pens.
- If you want to avoid further pain, you may have to give up some of your favorite foods and activities during the healing process.
Food and Drink
Everything you put in your mouth affects your tongue piercing including the food you eat and the fluids you drink. Numbing your tongue with ice cubes and ice-cold water is one of the fastest forms of pain relief. The last thing you want to do is to accidentally bite down on your sensitive tongue. Eat cool, soft foods such as ice cream, smoothies and yogurt until you learn to eat with your tongue held level in your mouth. Chew all solid foods in small bites with your molars.
- Everything you put in your mouth affects your tongue piercing including the food you eat and the fluids you drink.
- Eat cool, soft foods such as ice cream, smoothies and yogurt until you learn to eat with your tongue held level in your mouth.
Medications and Vitamins
How to Eat With a Tongue Ring
An over-the-counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium will help with the pain, but do not use any pain reliever containing aspirin as aspirin promotes bleeding. The Association of Professional Piercers recommends taking vitamin C, iron and vitamin B to help you heal faster. Women should also take zinc, according to the Center for Young Women's Health 1. Suck on anti-inflammatory throat lozenges to ease your sore throat.
- An over-the-counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium will help with the pain, but do not use any pain reliever containing aspirin as aspirin promotes bleeding.
Rinsing and Brushing
Keeping your piercing clean helps you avoid a painful infection. Rinse your mouth for 30 to 60 seconds with an alcohol-free, antibacterial mouthwash after every meal and before bed, recommends the Mayo Clinic. Throughout the day, you may also rinse with either a packaged saline solution or warm salt water. Mix 1/4 teaspoon sea salt with 8 ounces of bottled or filtered water to make your salt water rinse. Do not use iodine salt because the iodine may slow healing, according to the Sydney Medical Body Piercing Clinic. Brush your teeth and tongue twice a day with a new, soft-bristle toothbrush.
- Keeping your piercing clean helps you avoid a painful infection.
- Rinse your mouth for 30 to 60 seconds with an alcohol-free, antibacterial mouthwash after every meal and before bed, recommends the Mayo Clinic.
How to Get Rid of Swollen Taste Buds
How to Eat With a Tongue Ring
Foods to Avoid With Tongue Piercings
How to Stop a Bleeding Tongue
Signs & Symptoms of an Infected Tongue Ring
Foods to Eat After Getting a Tongue Ring
How to Heal Tongue Sores
How to Care for Cuts Inside the Mouth Close to the Teeth
How to Heal Tongue Wounds
How to Relieve a Sore Mouth From the Side Effects of Amoxicillin
- Center for Young Women's Health: Body Piercing
- Mayo Clinic: Piercings: How to Prevent Complications
- Kim AM, Keenan BT, Jackson N, et al. Tongue fat and its relationship to obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep. 2014;37(10):1639–1648. Published 2014 Oct 1. doi:10.5665/sleep.4072
- Bartlett JA, van der Voort Maarschalk K. Understanding the oral mucosal absorption and resulting clinical pharmacokinetics of asenapine. AAPS PharmSciTech. 2012;13(4):1110–1115. doi:10.1208/s12249-012-9839-7
- National Organization for Rare Diseases. Tongue Cancer.
- Dotiwala AK, Samra NS. Anatomy, head and neck, tongue. [Updated 2019 Feb 8]. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan.
- Moore KL and AF Dalley. Clinically Oriented Anatomy. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 4th edition, 1999, pp. 940-947.
- Stone M, et al. Structure and variability in human tongue muscle anatomy. Comput Methods Biomech Biomed Eng Imaging Vis. 2018;6(5):499–507. Published online 2016 Apr 8. doi:10.1080/21681163.2016.1162752
Ivy Morris specializes in health, fitness, beauty, fashion and music. Her work has appeared in "Sacramento News and Review," "Prosper Magazine" and "Sacramento Parent Magazine," among other publications. Morris also writes for medical offices and legal practices. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in government-journalism from Sacramento State University.