How to Identify and Treat a Tongue Piercing Infection

Tongue Piercing Infection Symptoms:

The symptoms of tongue piercing infection are similar to those of other types of infections. They include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and pains, nausea and vomiting. The most common symptom is the one which causes the greatest concern among patients; it is often called “tongue pain”. Tingling or numbness along with burning sensation in your mouth may occur during the first few days after a tongue piercing infection.

How to Diagnose Tongue Piercing Infection?

A doctor’s diagnosis of tongue piercing infection depends upon the following factors:

Your age. If you have been bitten by a tick or another animal which carries the disease, then you will be more likely to get infected if you had a bite wound on your tongue. You should seek medical attention immediately when getting bitten by such an animal. Your location.

If you were bitten by a mosquito carrying the disease, then you would be more likely to get infected if you got bitten on your tongue. A bite from a tick is less likely to cause infection.

If you feel any of these symptoms, then seek immediate medical attention and consult a doctor.

Tongue Piercing Infection Treatment:

There are two main ways to treat tongue piercing infection: antifungal drugs and antibiotics.

Antifungal drugs are usually the first choice of treatment since yeast infections are caused by a fungus, not a virus. Antifungal drugs are effective at treating the infection and will get rid of the symptoms within 4 to 5 days. The most common antifungal drugs used are fluconazole (Diflucan) and itraconazole (Sporanox).

When you visit your doctor, he or she will most probably take a small scraping of the infected tissue from your tongue and look at under a microscope to see if it has yeast in it. If so, then your doctor will most likely prescribe an antifungal drug.

Antibiotics are effective at fighting bacteria and infections caused by them. There is no evidence that supports that they are effective at fighting fungal infections like those caused by yeast.

Tongue Piercing Healing Stages:

The healing process of a tongue piercing starts immediately after it has been pierced and continues until the hole closes completely. The entire process takes roughly 4 to 6 weeks and can be broken down into four healing stages.

The inflammatory stage starts when the piercing is done. During this time, your tongue will be very swollen and might turn a dark red or purple color. It may also have a shiny or glossy appearance. The swelling should begin to go down after a few days.

At this point you may also experience an “edema” or a small bruise on the tip of your tongue.

The second stage, known as the secretory stage, occurs when your tongue starts producing an excess amount of mucus, saliva and other fluids. This may cause the piercing to become slimy and begins to coat the inside of your mouth. You might also experience an alteration in taste sensations. This stage can last for several weeks and can be quite annoying.

The third stage, known as the formation stage, is when the excess fluid is absorbed into your body and the piercing hole narrows down. At this point you may experience some mild pain and aching as your tongue begins to shrink back to its original size. It is not uncommon to have some bad breath or bad tasting fluid in your mouth during this time.

The final stage is the maturation stage, when all signs of the piercing have gone away and your tongue has returned to normal. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months before all traces of the hole are gone.

If you have a tongue web piercing, then the healing time is much quicker since the skin is much thicker in that region. A tongue web piercing takes roughly 2 to 3 weeks to heal completely.

The most important thing to remember during the healing time is keeping your mouth as clean as possible. Rinse with fresh water regularly, but if you can, rinse with a salt-water solution. Do not use mouthwashes that contain alcohol, since this can dry out your tongue and delay the healing process.

At no point should you pick or play with the piercing while it is healing. Doing so could result in ripping the skin, resulting in a permanent hole. If for any reason you notice a black or gray discharge coming from your piercing, contact your doctor immediately.

Tongue Piercing Aftercare:

After your tongue piercing has healed you will have to take extra care when cleaning it and using good hygiene. Use warm salt water (1 teaspoon of non-iodized salt per 8oz. of water) to rinse your mouth and remove any lingering bacteria.

You can also use commercial tongue washes or rinses that are available at most drug stores. These products are also effective at killing remaining bacteria and fungus growing in your mouth. Avoid using toothpaste, since this can irritate the fresh piercing and cause unnecessary bleeding and swelling.

Below are some general tips for proper aftercare:

-Eat a soft diet for the first few days. Foods that are high in protein will help your body produce fresh healing collagen while reducing swelling and irritation. Dairy products are also helpful since they help fight off infection and speed up the healing process.

-Cut down on smoking or eliminate it entirely. Smoking reduces the blood flow to your tongue and reduces the body’s ability to fight infection.

-Take an over-the-counter pain medication for the first few days if needed (afe).

-Rinse your mouth with warm water regularly and stay hydrated.

-Use a straw or sip from the side of your mouth rather than directly through the piercing. This will prevent accidental dislodging of the jewelry.

-Avoid excess stress or excitement as this can reduce blood flow to the tongue and cause undue stress on the piercing.

-Do not play with the piercing, touch it unnecessarily or otherwise fiddle with it. Doing will irritate the piercing and slow the healing process.

-Take additional Vitamin C to help your body produce fresh collagen and speed up wound healing.

Stretching Your Tongue Piercing:

Stretching your tongue piercing is easy since the tissue is resilient and flexible. Typically, a larger curved bar is inserted into the piercing to provide tension. A taper is used to gradually increase the size of the bar to enable stretching. While some people choose to stop at a certain size, others will continue stretching until their tongue is too thick for regular bars and pins.

Tongue rings can also be replaced by larger sized curved bars that have an internally threaded end to enable the attachment of decorative ends.

Jewelry made of biocompatible titanium may also be used for stretching since it is flexible and will move with your tongue. Typically, these are shaped like a “U” and the barbells are placed through the piercing to grip the sides, helping to hold them in place while the jewelry is in place.

Note: Using a taper to stretch your piercing can be very painful, and may even cause bleeding. If you have a thin tongue or shallow piercing this may not be the best course of action for you. Forcing the jewelry through your tongue could result in tearing the piercing and will definitely increase healing time, if not resulting in a rejected hole altogether. Take care when stretching and make sure to not force anything.

Sources & references used in this article:

Endocarditis due to Neisseria mucosa after tongue piercing by H Tronel, H Chaudemanche, N Pechier… – … and Infection, 2001 –

Cerebellar brain abscess associated with tongue piercing by RA Martinello, EL Cooney – Clinical Infectious Diseases, 2003 –

Streptococcus viridans endocarditis from tongue piercing by SD Lick, SN Edozie, KJ Woodside, VR Conti – The Journal of emergency …, 2005 – Elsevier

An investigation into the practice of tongue piercing in the South West of England by LR Stead, JV Williams, AC Williams… – British Dental …, 2006 –

Tongue piercing: a restorative perspective. by MA Bassiouny, LP Deem… – Quintessence …, 2001 –

Lip and tongue piercing: experiences and views of general dental practitioners in South Lancashire by JG Whittle, KH Lamden – Primary Dental Care, 2004 –