Tongue piercing carries some risk, but good aftercare can greatly reduce the chances of a complication. There are often millions of bacteria in the mouth that, if trapped under the jewelry, can cause infection at the site of the piercing. Caring for a new tongue piercing involves the use of certain solutions to clean the piercing and the jewelry, while avoiding risky behavior after you receive it.
After a Tongue Piercing
Most commercial and homemade cleaning solutions applied during tongue piercing aftercare can help prevent infection. The Association of Professional Piercers (AAP) suggests using alcohol-free antimicrobial or antibacterial mouth rinses after every meal, but no more than four or five times per day. The mouth should be rinsed for 30 to 60 seconds with this solution. A quarter teaspoon of iodine-free salt, dissolved in eight fluid ounces of warm water, makes for a good second solution to help the healing process. This salt solution should be used to rinse the mouth for 10 to 15 seconds twice a day.
Using a new toothbrush after a piercing also avoids introducing new bacteria into the mouth – something an old toothbrush can do quite easily. A soft-bristled toothbrush designed to reach into small places, such as Colgate® Slim Soft™, is best for this purpose. According to researchers in the Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice, gently brushing the area around the piercing is recommended as part of your normal home care routine.
To keep food from hitting the jewelry during the healing period, fingers should be used to place it directly on the molars for chewing. Just be sure to wash your hands thoroughly in liquid antibacterial soap before putting them in your mouth.
Pain from a piercing can last up to one month, according to the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, and there is a range of other healing symptoms that are perfectly normal. The APP states that tongue swelling usually lasts three to five days, but this can be reduced by gently sucking on clean ice chips or small ice cubes. The piercing site also bleeds and secretes a yellowish liquid. Plaque may collect on the jewelry itself, as well, but if the top of the tongue turns white or a yellowish color, this is a sign of too much cleaning.
Signs of Infection
Nonetheless, the American Dental Association (ADA) lists some potentially serious complications as a result of tongue piercing. The tongue may swell to the point that it impedes breathing, in which case you should seek care right away. Signs of infection after a tongue piercing include fever, chills, shaking or a red-streaked appearance around the piercing site. Immediately contact a dentist or physician if you suffer any symptoms. Usually, a tongue piercing heals within four to six weeks.
A few temporary lifestyle changes can help to avoid problems from a tongue piercing. This includes avoiding oral sexual contact and romantic gestures involving the tongue, as well as chewing on nonfood items such as gum, pencils, fingernails, tobacco and sunglasses. Aspirin, caffeine and alcohol can increase swelling, bleeding and pain, and should also be avoided. For adventurous eaters, hot, spicy, salty and acidic foods are also on the list of no-go items. Keep in mind playing with the jewelry and clicking it against the teeth can delay healing and cause similar dental problems.
Good tongue piercing aftercare reduces the risks of oral cavity modification. Use a registered, professional piercer for this process, and contact your dentist or physician if you have any concerns after having your tongue pierced.