Oral Piercing Care

Tips are from Yankee Tattoo in Burlington, Vermont.
(802) 862-3328

Normal Piercings
  • May be tender and slightly red for a few weeks, or may itch a bit.
  • May bleed for a little for the first few days
  • May secrete a whitish-yellow fluid which crusts on the jewelry. This is not pus.
  • May swell at the tongue or lip. This will be most uncomfortable for the first 3-5 days.

How should I clean my piercing?
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly before touching the area.
  • After eating, smoking, or putting anything in your mouth, you need to rinse with antibacterial mouthwash. Most people use Listerine or Biotene (which is alcohol-free). You should dilute your mouthwash 50% - 75% with water to avoid
    damaging your new skin cells.
  • You will also need to disinfect the piercing. Exactly twice a day, place a few drops of GlyOxide (carbamide peroxide) or Peroxyl (hydrogen peroxide) on the piercing. Let it foam, then swirl it around in your mouth and spit it out. Do not omit this step!
  • If you have a lip piercing, you must clean the outside with Ear Care (benzalkonium chloride) or a saline solution. Use a swab to remove any crusted matter and work the solution into the piercing.
  • Sea salt rinses (1/4 tsp. sea salt per cup of water) are fine as a suppliment, but do not replace antibacterial mouthwashes.

What else can I do?
  • Many piercees have found that Vitamin C (3000 mg in mineral ascorbate form), multi-vitamins, and a zinc supplement
    (women: 60 mg; men: 120 mg, for about two weeks) speed healing and regeneration of tissue.
  • Cut down or stop smoking. Smokers may experience a considerably longer healing time.
  • Suck on ice cubes for the first 24 - 48 hours to reduce swelling. You may also wish to take an anti-inflammatory nonprescription medication such as Advil (ibuprofin).
  • Don't be in a hurry to downsize your jewelry (get a smaller or shorter piece). You're ready to size down when there is about an extra 1/4 inch of room on the post or ring first thing in the morning. Your piercer will know when it's time for a downsizing.
  • Latex Barriers should be used to protect the piercing from body fluids, even if you are in a monagamous relationship.

When can I remmove or change the jewelry?
Your piercing will not be completely healed for several years. Even after the piercing has healed, reinsertion can be difficult and sometimes impossible.
  • Except for downsizing, jewelry should not be changed during the initial healing period, usually about 6 - 10 months. Be sure to always wear appropriate jewelry in your piercings, even when fully healed. Jewelry designed for earlobes is never appropriate, and can damage your piercing.
  • If you must remove the jewelry temporarily, call your piercer, S/he can easily remove the jewelry without damaging the piercing, and can help you reinsert the jewelry as soon as possible.
  • It's no problem to permanenly remove the jewelry. In most cases, only a small indentation will remain. We encourage you to call your piercer. S/he will be happy to assist you.

Do I have an infection?
Infections are caused by contact with bacteria, fungi, or other living pathogens. Piercing infections can usually be traced to one of the following activities:
  • Touching the piercing with unwashed hands or letting someone else touch the piercing
  • Oral contact with the piercing
  • Allowing body fluids to contact the piercing (your urine is sterile to your own body)
  • Contact wtih hair, cosmetics, oils, infrequently washed clothing or bedding or other agents
  • Going into a pool, hot tub, lake, ocean or other body of water (your own clean bathtub is okay)

How can I tell if I have an infection?
While these symptoms may also indicate other problems, look for the following indications of infection:
  • Redness and swelling
  • A sensation of heat at the piercing site
  • Pain, especially throbbing or spreading pain
  • Unusual discharge. It may be yellowish, greenish, or grayish

I think I have an infection. What should I do?
  • While it's never inappropriate to see your piercing-friendly physician, a call to your piercer may save you a trip. If possible, visit your piercer and show him/her the piercing. Also tell him/her about any circumstances which may have led to an infection.
  • Please don't remove the jewelry! This may aggravate the problem by closing off the drainage for the matter.
  • The effectiveness of an oral antibiotic depends on selecting the right one for the job. This should only be done by a physician! If you have used an over the counter topical antibiotic ointment before without adverse effects, it may be appropriate to use sparingly, for no more then 3-5 days. Many people are very sensitive to antibiotics, particularly neomycin; Bacitracin is the least problematic ointment.

Common problems you can avoid.
  • Overcleaning, vigorous cleaning, or using a cleanser that is too strong can produce symptoms very similar to an infection. The skin may be very tender and appear shiny, and there may be a clear discharge.
  • Friction caused by tight or heavy clothing, rough sexual activity, or excessive movement of the area can cause dark redness, keloids, discharge, and rejection/migration.
  • Stress, poor diet, or illness can cause longer healing times, or migration of the piercing.
  • Often a cleanser reaction or other problems are mistaken for a metal allergy. They may feel hot and sore, like a low-grade infection, or the body may attempt to pull away from the metal, resulting in a large growing cavity.
  • Occasionally, the selected jewelry may not be appropriate. This may or may not be due to circumstances that occurred after the piercing. If the jewelry is too thin or too heavy, too large or small in diameter, or not the appropriate style (a barbell instead of a ring for example), you may experience healing problems. Contact your piercer if yoususpect that you may need different jewelry.

Estimated inital healing times.
Everyone heals at a different rate. These are the average times for which you shouyld clean your piercing, twice daily and treat it like new, healing tissue. Remember that even after the initial healing period, your piercing will still need one full year or longer to completely heal (toughen up). Always treat the piercing with care and gentleness.

  • Lip, Labret: 6-8 weeks
  • Tongue: 4-6 weeks
  • Cheek: 2-3 months

Yankee Tattoo, Burlington, Vermont