How to Avoid an Infected Lip Piercing

A lip piercing can be a way for an individual to express their personal style, but if proper procedures and aftercare instructions aren't followed, complications may arise. If you are contemplating getting a pierced lip, make sure you know the precautions you can take to avoid an infected lip piercing.

Oral Piercing Considerations

Before you get an oral piercing, such as a lip piercing or a tongue piercing, it's important to review the safety concerns and ensure you follow the best care practices. Because your mouth is home to millions of bacteria, it's the ideal place for a piercing infection, according to the American Dental Association. If a piercing in your mouth or on your tongue swells, your airway could become closed off. In addition, the jewelry could break off, posing a choking risk. If you habitually play with the jewelry or click it against your teeth, you could break a tooth or filling, as well as damage or irritate your gums.

Finding a Certified Provider

For your safety and protection, seek out an experienced professional who is trained, skilled and certified by the Association of Professional Piercers (APP). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends asking the following questions at your piercing appointment:

  • Has the person conducting the piercing washed their hands with a germicidal soap?
  • Have they changed into fresh, disposable surgical gloves?
  • Are they using sterilized instruments or brand new, disposable instruments?

These sanitary measures are crucial and help eliminate any bacterial contamination that could lead to an infection, which is why piercing your lip on your own or going to an uncertified individual is not recommended.

Preventing Lip Piercing Infections

If your clinician followed good protocol for the piercing procedure, it's now up to you to carefully follow the aftercare instructions to ensure proper healing and reduce the chance of infection. You'll need to keep the area as clean as possible, which means always washing your hands before touching your mouth or lip. The APP recommends rinsing your mouth with a saline solution four or five times a day during the healing period and applying a gauze soaked in a saline solution (or non-iodized salt water mixture) to the piercing area two or three times daily. It is not necessary to rotate the jewelry during cleaning, but thoroughly rinse and pat your lip dry with a clean paper towel. Cloth towels may harbor bacteria.

Avoid cleaning the pierced area with alcohol or using a mouthwash that contains alcohol. Don't share cups or eating utensils with others and refrain from chewing gum, your fingernails or pencils. Using tobacco products, consuming caffeine or drinking alcohol could delay the healing process.

While your body is recovering from the piercing, it's important to maintain good oral hygiene, so swish with a non-alcoholic, antimicrobial mouthwash and brush with a new, soft-bristled toothbrush.

Signs of Infection

Immediately after your piercing, you'll notice some bleeding, swelling and tenderness, and eventually some itchiness, according to the APP. A thin, whitish secretion may form on the jewelry, which you can clean off. These conditions are normal and expected.

As the healing process continues, be alert for any signs of infection, including:

  • Pus drainage, which will be thick, opaque and yellowish
  • Excessive pain or swelling around the area
  • Above symptoms accompanied by chills or a fever

If you have symptoms of an infection, see your doctor as soon as possible.

What to Do if Your Piercing Is Infected

According to a clinical article in The Journal of Urgent Care Medicine, the chances of developing an infection from an oral piercing are relatively low. If the piercing does become infected, it can usually be treated with thorough cleaning and antibiotics. Topcial antibiotics may be used to treat minor infections, but oral antibiotics may be necessary for some cases. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the proper treatment path, so seek their advice if any signs of infection arise.

Before getting a lip piercing, be sure to find a skilled professional who uses appropriate, sterile techniques. To avoid an infected lip piercing, follow your aftercare instructions completely to keep your piercing as clean as possible.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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