An oral (mouth) piercing is a small hole in your tongue, lip, cheek, or uvula (the tiny tissue at the back of your throat) so you can wear jewellery. Nowadays, tongue piercing has become a style icon and most of the youth want to get their tongue pierced.But tongue piercing may turn dangerous if you fail to take the proper care of your oral health. Our oral cavity contains numerous bacteria which cause various dental illnesses. The poor hygiene gives a favourable environment to the bacteria for their action. Infection of the tongue with these bacteria causes the tongue to swell, bleed and many other complications may arise.However, proper aftercare can save you from developing the infection after tongue piercing.
What causes infection?
Tongue piercing infection is most commonly occurring infection than any other piercing infection. Our oral cavity is full of thousands of bacteria which attack pierced tongue frequently. If you do not take proper aftercare, then these bacteria can cause potential damage and cause the oral infection. Sometimes, you might develop an allergic reaction to the metal used in a tongue piercing. Allergic reaction develops various symptoms and may end up with the tongue infection. Changing jewellery in such case is the best way to deal with allergy.
How long does it take to heal?
The tongue is the most vascular organ. Rich blood supply helps in the healing process. Hence, tongue piercing is expected to heal quickly without any problem. Usually, tongue piercing should heal completely in 6-8 month after piercing. However, the healing process depends on how to care for your new piercing. Once the healing is complete, the chance of infection reduces. But you should keep up with the proper oral hygiene care even after the complete healing.Also, some precautions, such as washing hand before touching mouth, eliminating the use of lip products, etc., help in enhancing the healing process.
Signs and symptoms
Initially, for first two weeks after the tongue piercing, you might experience –
- Minor swelling.
- Temporary irritation.
- Slight throbbing.
- Mild heat or warmth.
- Discharge of lymph during the healing process.
- Stagnation of clear, white discharge near the hole in your tongue.
However, these signs resolve after the complete healing. Meanwhile, if your tongue gets infected with bacteria, it will develop the following symptoms of infection –
- Severe pain.
- Uncomfortable swelling
- Persistent warmth.
- Excessive bleeding.
- Redness or red streak running down the side of a pierced hole.
- Pus or yellow discharge
- Bad smell
- Bump formation near piercing.
- Tongue discoloration.
Knowing the potential symptoms of the infected tongue and treating them on time is essential to avoid future complications. If left untreated, the infection may worsen with the time and may cause life-threatening medical complications. The tongue may cause excessive bleeding and swelling to a great extent if left untreated. The excessively swollen tongue may further arise the breathing difficulty.
A severely infected tongue cannot be managed with home care and might need professional treatment. If the initial signs of tongue piercing continue even after the 2 weeks of piercing, then you need to consult a doctor.Bacteria are the primary cause of infection after tongue piercing and thus, the infected tongue piercing is usually treated with the antibiotics.
Home therapy for mild infection
You can treat a mild infection at home by taking proper oral care. Some of the popular home therapies practiced for infected tongue piercing are –
1. Ice-Ice is the cold compress relieving method and it is known to reduce the swelling. It also relieves pain by giving numb effect to the tongue. To get relief from the symptoms, suck on an ice cube for 5 minutes.Do it twice a day until the infection resolves.
2. Regular compress-Regular or the warm compress causes dilation of blood vessels which enhances the healing process and relieves symptoms.To use a warm compress stick a damp towel in the microwave for 30 seconds. Once the towel gets the warmth, apply it for 10 minutes on the affected area. Do it twice a day for useful results.
3. Chamomile compress -Chamomile compress has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It speeds up the healing process. Here is how you should use the chamomile compress –
- Dip the chamomile in boiling water for 5 minutes.
- Remove the chamomile and the wrap it in a towel.
- Apply the chamomile wrapped towel on each side of the pierced hole for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, rinse the affected area with warm water.
- Repeat it daily until the infection resolves.
How to prevent tongue piercing infection?
You can avoid infection by proper oral care and prevention. Also, proper tongue piercing aftercare can save you from developing the infection.Here are a few points which need to be taken care of to avoid the infection.
1. Do not play with or remove the jewellery-Moving jewelry in and out causes tissue irritation and give entry to the bacteria in the hole. Hence, do not touch your jewelry.The only time you should touch the jewelry is during cleaning.Continuous teasing may also cause breakage of the jewellery, and you may feel choking due to broken jewelry.
2. Maintain oral hygiene -It is essential to maintain oral health to prevent the tongue piercing infection. Good oral hygiene prevents bacterial growth and reduces the chance of infection.To practice the proper oral hygiene, brush your teeth twice in a day, floss once in a day and use mouthwash to wash off the plaque and bacteria.In addition to oral hygiene care, rinse your mouth after every eating. Use warm salt water or antibacterial alcohol-free mouth wash or pre-made saline solution for rinsing.Mouth rinsing helps to stop bacteria from spreading and getting inside the hole. But make sure that the mouthwash should not replace saline cleansing routine.Also, do not forget to clean your piercing frequently and watch what you eat and drink. Do not eat hot, spicy, salty and acidic food. Say no to hot drinks like coffee, tea, hot chocolate, etc. Eat a soft diet for first 8-10 days after piercing. Go for ice cream, oatmeal, mashed potatoes that are unlikely to get caught on your jewellery. Remember, lesser the irritation to the tongue, faster will be the healing.
3. Avoid smoking and alcohol-Smoking delays healing and increase the chance of infection. If you are not ready to give up on your smoking habit, then drop the idea of getting piercing of your tongue.Alcohol act as a blood thinner and also damage the cells around the piercing. Hence, alcohol consumption is known to prolong the healing process. So avoid the alcohol intake to prevent the infection.
4. Do not use the tongue scraper-A tongue scraper is the useful cleaning aid. But the use of tongue scraper improperly with pierced tongue may cause the infection. Tongue scraper may tease the jewellery and irritate the tissue. Hence, the use of a tongue scraper is not recommended if you have a pierced tongue.