Tongue, lip, cheek or uvula piercings have long been popular among teens and adults. We advise against oral piercing because of the dental health risks they present, but if your teen already has one, here’s some advice for taking care of it to preserve his or her oral health.
In the past, we've written about the oral health risks of oral piercings. If your teen has an oral piercing, taking good care of it is extremely important! Most of the time, if they’re properly cleaned and cared for on a regular basis, oral piercings aren’t harmful.
The following information is for teen who are planning to get an oral piercing, or already have one.
Before Getting A Piercing: What To Do
If you don’t have a piercing yet, but plan to get one, be sure to take the following precautions:
- Make sure you’re up to date with your hepatitis B and tetanus vaccines.
- Choose a piercing shop that is clean and well run (look for reviews online).
- Choose a licensed piercer (meaning she has been specially trained).
- Be sure that the piercer thoroughly washes her hands with antibacterial soap, wears fresh, disposable gloves, and uses sterilized or single-use tools.
- Make sure the piercer is willing to openly answers all your questions.
- Ask if everyone who works in the shop is up to date on their hep B and tetanus vaccines.
- Make sure the jewelry is made of surgical steel, gold or platinum.
We understand that it can feel awkward or intimidating to ask all of these questions, but they're important! A little discomfort or embarrassment is worth it when your health is at stake. if your piercer is a professional, she'll be glad to answer all your questions, and put you at ease.
If she makes you feel bad or uncomfortable about asking questions, just say you've changed your mind, and choose another piercing shop.
Taking Care of Your Piercing
Oral piercings take a good deal of care and maintenance to keep them healthy and infection-free.
Even if your oral hygiene routine is top-notch, your mouth is full of bacteria. This means that oral piercings are more susceptible to infection than most, even once they've healed.
After you first get your piercing, you’ll have to be extremely vigilant about cleaning it to make sure it does not become infected during the healing process. Most oral piercings will take about 3 weeks to a month to heal completely.
While your piercing is healing:
- Rinse it with warm salt water or an alcohol-free, antibacterial mouth wash after every meal or snack, and before you go to bed.
- Avoid all contact with other people’s saliva. Don’t kiss anyone, and don’t share cutlery, plates or glasses.
- Eat healthy food, and take small bites, chewing carefully and thoroughly.
- Avoid hot drinks
If you have a tongue piercing, you will likely have a larger barbell at first to give your tongue room to heal around the swelling. After the swelling goes down, replace the barbell with a smaller one as soon as possible, as smaller jewelry is less likely to cause damage to your teeth.
After Healing: Day-to-Day Care
Once your piercing has healed, take the jewelry out every night before bed and brush it just like you do your teeth. To play it safe, also take your jewelry out to sleep, and before engaging in physical activity, so that you don't accidentally swallow it.