The tongue piercing healing process involves the initial swelling, tongue irritation, and soreness. After the piercing, the tongue begins to swell and commonly reaches double its original size. The swelling should subside within a couple days, but eating, drinking and speaking are generally painful during this time. For several months after receiving the piercing, the person might experience tongue irritation and soreness. One advantage of getting such a piercing is that tongue piercings heal quickly for many people, but this can also be a disadvantage if a person occasionally forgets to wear her piercing.
Major tongue swelling is part of the tongue piercing healing process, but it can be alarming, uncomfortable, and frustrating when trying to do everyday things like talk and eat. Many people experience difficulty talking, with some people choosing to speak very little or not at all during the first couple of days. Taking an anti-inflammatory medication or drinking a cold beverage can sometimes considerably reduce swelling. In rare cases, especially if the tongue piercing was botched in some way, the tongue can swell enough to cause difficulty breathing and the person must get medical help immediately.
Eating and drinking should be done with care to reduce the chances of stretching the hole or getting an infection, both of which can extend the tongue piercing healing process. It is generally recommended that the pierced person wash his or her mouth after every meal and beverage that is not water. For example, if the pierced person drinks a soda beverage, he or she should rinse the mouth with salt water or whatever cleaning solution is recommended by the piercer.
It takes about six months to fully complete the tongue piercing healing process, but most people stop experiencing irritation or pain within half that time. The tongue heals relatively quickly, so leaving tongue jewelry out of the piercing is usually discouraged. For some people, a completely healed tongue piecing can close within a few hours to several days. Other people report being able to leave their tongue jewelry out for years without experiencing even a partial closure.
Besides getting an infected tongue piercing or having difficulty breathing, there are rare, but significant, risks when getting a tongue piercing. The pierced person can experience dental problems if the piercing is placed too near the edge of the tongue. Nerve damage is also a possibility if the piercing is performed by an inexperienced or careless piercer. Tongue jewelry can also come loose in the mouth and pose a choking hazard.