A tongue piercing officially takes between six and eight weeks to completely heal. However, your individual healing process depends entirely on how you care for your new piercing.

Read on to find out what symptoms are typical during this time, how your aftercare may vary from week to week, when you can safely change your jewelry, and more.

Proper aftercare techniques are crucial to the outcome of your tongue piercing. Much of this depends on where your tongue piercing is placed, as well as how many new piercings you have.

Although the bulk of your aftercare takes place within the first couple of weeks, you’ll need to stay on top of daily cleanings until the piercing has completely healed. You should still clean your piercing once it’s healed, but you’ll have more flexibility in how often you do so.

Days 1 through 4

A little bit of swelling is normal — after all, your tongue now has a hole in it. Still, the amount of swelling shouldn’t keep you from drinking water or talking.

You’ll need to be careful with the types of foods that you eat, as these can get stuck around the jewelry and make you uncomfortable. Soft, bland foods — like applesauce and yogurt — are preferred.

French kissing and oral sex are off-limits during this time.

You can do a salt rinse to help minimize any pain and swelling. Ready-made rinses may be available for purchase from your piercer, or you can make your own at home. Use it several times per day at first to encourage the healing process.

Days 5 and 6

Pain and swelling should start to subside by the end of the first week. You may find it easier to eat, but you should still stick with soft foods at this point.

Keep up with your salt rinses, and avoid extensive physical contact with others.

Days 7 through 9

Overall pain and swelling should be done by this point. You may start eating harder, crunchier foods, but do so with care. If any discomfort develops, stick with soft foods for a bit longer.

Avoid hot beverages, as these can encourage further swelling.

If possible, rinse your mouth out with salt water after eating and drinking. This can help prevent food and other irritants from getting stuck around the jewelry.

Days 10 through 41

By day 10, your piercing may look like it’s good to go — but appearances aren’t everything. The hole won’t be completely healed for several more weeks.

You can eat almost anything you’d like at this point. But take care with spices, as these can irritate the wound.

You can cut down to twice-daily salt rinses — preferably morning and night — after you brush your teeth.

Days 42 through 56

This is considered the final stretch in your tongue piercing healing process. Continue with your salt rinses, and make sure you’re brushing and flossing.

You shouldn’t have any pain or swelling at this stage, but you might find that certain foods irritate your tongue. Any symptoms beyond this may be a sign of infection or a poor piercing job.

Once your piercer give you the OK, you can resume your normal habits. This includes eating what you want, getting intimate, and switching out your jewelry.

You’ll still need to take precautions after the eight-week healing period, though. This ensures the health of your piercing over the long term.

While the initial piece of jewelry used for your piercing may not be your favorite, it’s important to make sure it stays put over the next eight weeks.

Removing the stud too soon can increase your risk of tears and infections. The hole may also close up if you remove the jewelry too soon.

Once the time comes to remove the jewelry used for the piercing, it’s best to see your piercer. They can ensure a safe removal process and show you how to correctly put new jewelry in.

For your tongue piercing to properly heal, it’s imperative that you follow some basic guidelines.

Make sure that you do:

  • brush your teeth twice per day
  • floss daily
  • use a soft-bristle toothbrush for cleanings
  • choose a mouthwash that’s alcohol-free
  • look for signs of complications — especially an infection

On the flip side, don’t:

  • use tongue scrapers
  • play with your jewelry
  • engage in french kissing or oral sex until the piercing has completely healed
  • play contact sports with your jewelry in your tongue
  • smoke or drink alcohol during the healing process

Once your tongue piercing has healed, you’re not completely off the hook in terms of cleaning and hygiene. You can eliminate salt rinses, but be sure to stay on top of your oral health to prevent any problems.

You’ll also want to ensure that any jewelry you select for your tongue piercing is of good quality. Look for jewelry made with steel, titanium, or 14-karat gold. Less desirable metals are more likely to cause an allergic reaction or lead to infection.

Be sure to keep up with your regular dental checkups over the lifetime of your piercing. Tongue piercings can increase your long-term risk of cuts, tooth trauma, and gum recession. Your dentist can monitor for changes and help ensure that your piercing doesn’t cause such damages.

Although tongue piercings are quick to heal compared to other piercings, they’re extremely vulnerable to infections. Poor-quality jewelry, messing with the piercing, and improper cleaning techniques all increase your risk.

See your doctor if you experience:

  • severe pain
  • severe swelling
  • redness around the piercing site
  • discharge from the piercing site
  • unusual odors

Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to help treat the infection and prevent its spread.

You shouldn’t remove the jewelry during this time. Doing so will trap infectious bacteria inside your tongue and may lead to further complications.

If you decide that you want to let the piercing close up — or you just want to switch the jewelry — you should wait until the infection has completely cleared.

Any new piercing can raise lots of questions. Those done on your tongue are especially delicate. Feel free to reach out to your piercer if you have any questions concerning the results, aftercare, and healing time.

If you think you’ve developed an infection, your piercer isn’t the right source for treatment. You’ll need to call your doctor if you see signs of an infection or you’re experiencing severe discomfort.