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How Do I Treat an Infected Tongue Piercing?

Alcohol-free mouthwash may be helpful in treating an infected tongue piercing.
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  • Written By: Angela Farrer
  • Edited By: S. Pike
  • Last Modified Date: 17 March 2014
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An infected tongue piercing generally needs prompt attention, since your pierced tongue is somewhat more vulnerable to complications when compared withto other types of body piercings. Mild infections can often be treated by rinsing the mouth to reduce bacteria growth, icing the pierced area, and obtaining a prescription antibiotic from a doctor. A physician should usually examine an infected tongue even if the signs of infection seem minor at first. Symptoms of an infected tongue piercing often include a deep red color surrounding the piercing, excessive swelling, persistent halitosis, and an unpleasant taste in your mouth.

When you first notice signs of an infected tongue ring, dissolve one tablespoon of sea salt in a glass of warm water and rinse your mouth thoroughly with this mixture at least three to four times per day. You can also mix a few drops of drugstore hydrogen peroxide or a small amount of alcohol-free mouthwash in water and rinse with these as another option. Pain and swelling can be reduced by sucking or carefully chewing on small chips of ice. If your piercing bleeds or has drainage of yellow-green pus, a doctor's visit is recommended as soon as possible. Until you can see a doctor, a warm salt water compress held over your pierced tongue can sometimes help drain away the infectious matter.

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Many physicians recommend that the jewelry be removed from your infected piercing, although some experienced body piercers advise against this measure. An infection can become trapped inside a pierced tongue that is allowed to heal over, resulting in possible tissue destruction and the need for surgery on the tongue to prevent serious health risks. Infected piercings generally need to be left open in order for the pus and harmful bacteria to be completely removed. One of the most serious complications that can result from an untreated tongue infection is hepatitis, which can lead to permanent liver damage.

Oral antibiotics are one of the most common treatments for an infected tongue piercing, and doctors usually prescribe them for one to two weeks. During the healing process, carefully follow all instructions for taking the medication as well as for keeping the infected tongue clean. Since the mouth is one of the richest environments for bacteria growth, your physician is also likely to recommend brushing your teeth with a soft-bristled brush immediately after any food intake. Along with rinsing the mouth, brushing will remove any small food particles that could potentially make an infected tongue piercing worse.

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Discuss this Article

anon345102
Post 6

I got my tongue pierced on Tuesday and this is Thursday and it is very swollen under the tongue as well as the tongue itself. It is also white on top. Do that mean it's infected? I am very concerned about this.

anon325718
Post 4

Really? Hepatitis from a tongue infection? Do you mean infectious hepatitis or general liver inflammation? In either case, I don't see how this results from an untreated tongue injury, unless you turn septic and get shock liver in which case you should be more worried about death instead of hepatitis.

serenesurface
Post 3

I'm a body piercer and I also do not recommend my clients to remove their piercing in case of an infection for reasons the article mentioned. The hole of the piercing actually allows the infected pus to drain out of the tongue which is a good thing.

Even if the client has an infection and the doctor has prescribed antibiotics, I recommend to keep the piercing and take the antibiotics as directed. The infection will be treated properly this way.

I also recommend eating soft foods and taking lots of liquids during this time. It's not a good idea to eat hard foods that will move the jewelry and irritate the piercing more while it is still healing. As always, follow all the tongue piercing aftercare suggestions by your piercer.

SarahGen
Post 2

@burcinc-- Yea, that sounds like a mildly infected lip piercing. I know that sea salt burns. You can also try saline solution from the pharmacy. That also has salt in it but I think it will burn less.

The best option however, is alcohol-free antibacterial mouthwash. I think it is available over the counter. Otherwise, you can ask your doctor to prescribe it for you. This will help treat the infection.

If things get worse though-- if there is more pain, swelling, and pus with odd colors and foul smell-- you need to see a doctor and take antibiotics.

burcinc
Post 1

I think I have the signs of an infected tongue piercing. It seemed fine for the first few days and then it started to swell. It is now slightly swollen, red and painful.

I tried rinsing with sea salt. I'm sure it helped but I don't want to do it again because it burned very badly.

What else can I do?

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