NHS Choices says there’s only a small chance that a piercing infection could happen in the mouth because of millions of germs living there. That’s not to say it could never happen to you, though. If not treated early, it could lead to serious complications, like severe brain infections. Today, let’s discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatments of tongue piercing infection.
Good news: A tongue piercing heals faster compared to other body piercings. It takes around three to four weeks to heal completely.
Bad news: After the procedure, you have to deal with the bleeding, pain, white discharges, and swelling for weeks. The bleeding could last two to seven days, while the swelling could last up to two weeks.
- 1 What Causes a Tongue Piercing to get Infected?
- 2 How to Treat Tongue Piercing Infection At Home
- 3 How to Stop the Bleeding
What Causes a Tongue Piercing to get Infected?
There are a number of reasons a tongue piercing could cause an infection, such as unsterile piercing equipment, poor aftercare practices, sexual activity, poor dental hygiene, injuries, and the use of dirty hands when touching the site. It’s easy for bacteria to cause an infection because of the wound created by piercing.
Depending on the severity of the infection, the signs and symptoms of an infection could range from mild to severe. Sometimes, bacteria can enter through the piercing in the tongue without causing any symptoms at all.
An infected tongue piercing usually causes the following symptoms:
- Persistent redness and swelling (more than two weeks)
- Fluid and pus accumulation
- Difficulty swallowing and speaking
- Discoloration of the tongue (severe case)
If any of these symptoms are present in you, pay your doctor a visit immediately. For minor cases, home treatments are usually enough.
How to Treat Tongue Piercing Infection At Home
Manage the Swelling of Your Tongue Promptly
A swollen tongue is not only painful, but it can also be dangerous. If it persists, it could eventually block your airway. Prompt treatment is important.
Here are some ideas on how to reduce the swelling of your tongue:
- Always bring crushed ice with you. Allow a few flakes to melt on your tongue to numb the pain and decrease swelling. Avoid chewing or sucking on the crushed ice.
- Gargle with warm salt water to draw out excess fluid from your tongue and to ease the pain. Make sure that it’s warm and follow the correct water to salt ratio. Mayo Clinic advises to add 1 teaspoon of table salt to 8 ounces of warm water.
- Aloe vera gel helps soothe inflammation thanks to its glycoproteins.  These proteins help speed up wound healing and ease the pain. To treat swelling due to infection, swish aloe-based mouthwash or aloe juice around your mouth for one whole minute.
- Try to drink and eat anything cold, like ice cream, for a couple of days after the piercing.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers, like Tylenol and Advil, to keep the swelling down.
Good Oral Hygiene
Maintaining a good oral hygiene is crucial. Keep your mouth germs under control. Your mouth houses millions of bacteria, and you don’t want to complicate your piercing infection by introducing more of them to the open wound in your tongue.
Continue with your usual oral hygiene routine. Just make sure you floss and brush your teeth gently. You can use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean your tongue rings twice a day (morning and evening). Avoid using an alcohol-based mouthwash because it could cause excessive drying and slow down the healing process.
Tea Tree Oil
Chlorhexidine gluconate is a popular ingredient in many oral rinse products. People use it to lower the amount of bacteria inside the mouth and treat gum bleeding or inflammation. However, it has its side effects, including dry mouth, mouth and throat irritations, and changes in the taste of foods. Study shows that tea tree oil is a great antibacterial alternative to chlorhexidine. 
To use for tongue piercing infection, mix together 2 teaspoons of carrier oil, 3 drops of tea tree oil, and 8.5 ounces of distilled water. Test a small amount on your skin and wait for 30 minutes for any allergic reactions. If there’s none, swish the mixture in your mouth for one minute. Be careful not to swallow it.
Honey is a simple and inexpensive way to hasten the healing of wounds and stop the growth of different bacteria. It’s able to fight off disease-causing bacteria because it’s acidic, rich in sugar, and contains hydrogen peroxide.
Each honey variety contains different levels of medicinal properties. Among all the varieties, Manuka honey is the most studied for its high antibacterial properties. People often use this variety for treating wound infections caused by antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. 
Honey is pretty straightforward to use. Just spread a thin layer around your infected tongue piercing. Make sure you’ve washed your hands with antibacterial soap and warm water before touching your tongue ring. Do this procedure several times a day.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Another home remedy you can add to your medicine cabinet is peppermint essential oil. It doesn’t only have a cooling effect, but it’s also a great infection-killer because of its ability to fight off different bacteria living in the mouth. 
Like other essential oils, you need to dilute peppermint essential oil to avoid mouth irritations. Make an oral rinse solution by adding 4 drops of this essential oil to 6 teaspoons of any carrier oil (e.g. olive oil and coconut oil). Stir well than add 4 ounces of aloe vera juice.
Swish the mixture around your mouth for sixty seconds. Do a final rinse using plain water after half an hour.
How to Stop the Bleeding
Normally, a fresh tongue piercing bleeds for the first two days after the procedure, and intermittently after a week. If your piercing isn’t bleeding excessively, you should be fine. It’s another thing when the bleeding doesn’t stop within thirty minutes. Seek a doctor immediately.
Meanwhile, here are some home remedies you can use for minor tongue piercing infection bleeding:
Apply Firm Pressure
Cut a piece of gauze bandage then firmly press it on the bleeding site for about five minutes. You could also place crushed ice inside the gauze to reduce the pain and slow down the blood flow.
Dried Plantain Herb
Plantain—not the banana-like vegetable—is a medicinal herb that grows extensively in different places. Alternative medicine practitioners use it to treat skin problems, infection, and bee stings. The extract of this herb is useful for treating bleeding because it stops blood flow and encourage wound healing by repairing damaged tissues.
To use on your infected tongue piercing, pour one half teaspoon of dried plantain herb into a tea bag or piece of coffee filter. Dip it into a cup of freshly boiled water then steep for around ten minutes. After it has cooled down, place it over the affected area of your tongue.
Sage is popular for its astringency, which allows it to draw tissues and blood vessels together to stop any minor bleeding. It’s also a potent anti-inflammatory agent and has bactericidal effect that makes it effective against diseases involving the mouth and teeth.  Some of its biologically active compounds are flavonoids, volatile oils, and rosmarinic acid.
It’s simple to use as a remedy for infection in the tongue piercing. Just pour 2 teaspoons of dried sage into 5 ounces of water. Bring it to a boil. Allow the sage herb to infuse for around ten minutes before straining. Once it has cooled down, use it to gargle for one minute. Spit it out and then rinse with cold water.
Lemon is one of the cheapest ways to stop bleeding due to tongue piercing infection. Like sage, it also contains astringent properties that stop blood flow by contracting your tongue tissues.
The simplest way to use this is to pour a few drops of its juice directly on the affected area of your tongue. To prevent excessive drying, mix the lemon juice with any vegetable oil or raw honey to keep your tongue moist. Repeat this procedure two to three times a day.
Tips to Prevent Infection After Pierced Tongue
- Avoid drinking alcohol and alcohol containing products.
- Avoid spicy, sticky and hard foods.
- Don’t smoke or use tobacco products.
- Brush your teeth after every meal.
- Rinse your mouth often with warm salt water.
- Eat soft foods.
- Consult with your dentist about taking vitamins to promote faster healing.
- If you notice a yellow or green discharge, scarring, thickened tissue, or increased swelling on the piercing site, please consult with your doctor. It is important that your doctor inspects your gums, teeth, tongue, and soft tissues for early signs of any problems.
Any form of body piercing involves some risk for infection. The best way to prevent this is to choose a reputable shop and observe good aftercare practices, such as washing your hands before touching your tongue piercing.
The right type of tongue jewelry is important, too. A study shows that stainless steel and titanium tongue studs tend to harbor more bacteria, as well as cause tooth chipping and gum recession.  A safer alternative is plastic tongue studs made from polytetrafluorethylene or polypropylene.
An infected tongue piercing can be dangerous. That’s why you should visit your doctor or dentist immediately if you show any signs of infection, like pain, persistent swelling, chills, fever, and a red-streak around your tongue piercing.
Do you have other piercings? If yes, then you may also be interested in our other article about infected lip piercing.
Have you ever experienced an infection on the tongue piercing before? What did you do? Let us know your tips and ideas on this subject by commenting below.