How to Reduce the Swelling from a New Tongue Piercing

Tongue piercings are often performed with a 5/8-inch, 12 or 14 gauge barbell.
Tongue piercings are often performed with a 5/8-inch, 12 or 14 gauge barbell. (Image: woman with a stud image by forca from

Tongue piercings are performed by cutting a clean hole straight through the tongue from top to bottom using a hollow cannula needle. The most common gauges for tongue piercings are 12 and 14, but even with this relatively slim needle, swelling almost always occurs. Some piercers grasp the end of the tongue with a piece of sterile gauze rather than clamps, as the clamps can exacerbate swelling. No matter what technique your piercer used or the degree of swelling you experience, there are several steps you can take to help minimize discomfort.

Things You'll Need

  • Ice cubes
  • Alcohol-free mouthwash
  • Ibuprofen

Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol and using recreational drugs until your tongue piercing has completely healed. Although it may seem like common sense, those who choose to ignore this advice often find their tongues swell much more than is necessary.

Keep your mouth as clean as possible to minimize the risk of bacteria entering the piercing. Change your toothbrush as soon as you get your tongue pierced and rinse with alcohol-free mouthwash every time you eat or drink anything other than water.

Carry a cup of ice with you and keep an ice cube in your mouth whenever possible. Sucking on ice not only reduces swelling but also soothes discomfort.

Eat cold, soft foods such as pudding and ice cream for several days after the piercing. Hot and spicy foods, as well as crunchy, salty foods, like potato chips, can increase swelling.

Take ibuprofen. You can safely take up to 4 200-mg tablets every 6 hours to help keep swelling down.

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