After getting your tongue pierced, you'll want to be mindful of the signs of infection. Infections are rare if your piercing is done by a qualified piercer and you've been practicing proper tongue piercing aftercare. In fact, oftentimes, what you believe to be an infection is just standard irritation. However, if signs of infection persist, you may need to see your family doctor or dentist to get an antibiotic. Read below for the tell-tale signs of a tongue piercing infection and how to handle them.
Lymph Versus Pus
The normal discharge of lymph from a healing tongue piercing can sometimes cause people to be concerned that they have a tongue piercing infection. As your body heals the fistula, which is the hole in your tongue where you were pierced, a clearish or whitish discharge my occasionally appear around the top or bottom of your piercing. That's just lymph. In any external piercing, the lymph would dry to a whitish crust that you can then gently wipe away with sea salt soaked cotton swabs or just rinse away with warm water. In the mouth, lymph won't dry and may appear to someone unfamiliar with the tongue piercing healing process to be pus oozing from an infected tongue.
If you're not sure, you may post a question in the PainfulPleasures Forum (attaching tongue piercing pictures will help our moderators help you best) or visit your piercer for a consultation before making a doctor's appointment. However, if the discharge is more yellowish and/or you're also running a fever, you most likely have an infection and should see a doctor right away. Oral infections should be addressed immediately.
Could I be allergic to my tongue ring?
If your tongue piercing is irritated but not showing signs of infection, you may just be mildly allergic to the material your tongue ring is made of. Solid titanium tongue rings are your best bet if you're having an allergic reaction to the metal, because titanium is the most inert metal and least likely to cause a reaction. You may also just need to give it more time to heal, but if you decide you want to try a titanium tongue ring, get your piercer to help you change your jewelry. Make sure that s/he gives you a solid titanium tongue ring rather than a coated one, and preferably one that's internally threaded so your healing fistula doesn't get scraped when the new jewelry passes through your tongue.
Is my barbell too short?
If your tongue is excessively swollen and your barbell is pressing in or "swallowing" either or both barbell balls, your tongue ring is too short. You need to see your piercer ASAP to have it swapped out for a longer one, because prolonged pressure on a piercing can lead to tissue death (necrosis), which can lead to infection.
What can I do to prevent an infected tongue piercing?
By performing proper tongue piercing aftercare, you can reduce your chances of getting a tongue piercing infection. We recommend using Recovery Oral Rinse 3-6 times per day (especially after eating). For additional tongue piercing care instructions, visit our Tongue Piercing Aftercare page.