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Oral Piercing Aftercare

Updated: Jul 24, 2021

If you have any questions about this guide or your piercing, please contact your piercer. For any urgent matters that fall outside of regular business hours, dial 811 to reach Healthlink, or 911 for emergencies.

Now that you’ve got your new piercing, it’s up to you to ensure it’s given the best opportunity to heal by following a strict aftercare routine. With the exception of cheeks (which can take upwards of 2 years), most oral piercings will be fully healed between 3-4 weeks. However, healing times may vary as each person is different and there are many factors can that can affect the healing process. One thing that is certain; however; is that proper oral hygiene, following a healthy lifestyle, and the continued use of quality jewelry will be crucial in ensuring piercing longevity after the healing period ends.

Cleaning a Fresh Oral Piercing

Inside the Mouth

Throughout the entire healing period the piercing should be cleaned first thing in the morning, following any meals (food/drinks other than water), and before bed using a 30-second ‘swish and spit’ technique. There are two solutions that can be used inside the mouth:

• Antimicrobial or antibacterial alcohol-free mouth wash. *This is the preferred method for anyone with high blood pressure or congestive heart failure

• Saline/Non-iodized sea salt mixture. Dissolve 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized sea salt into one cup (post-boiled) distilled or bottled water. A stronger mixture is not better as saline that is too strong can irritate your piercing.

*Cleaning too frequently or with a mixture containing too much salt can cause discolouration and/or irritation within the mouth or around the piercing.

Outside the Mouth

To clean the exterior of the piercing (lips/cheeks), perform a 5-10 minute soak or compress using a carefully measured saline solution at least 2 to 3 times daily

  • Wash your hands thoroughly prior to cleaning or touching your piercing for any reason.

  • Soak your piercing for 5-10 minutes at a time by: holding a cup of warm saline solution to the piercing, OR, applying a clean non-woven gauze compress that has been saturated in the saline solution.

  • Dry gently by patting with a clean, disposable non-woven gauze. NEVER use cloth towels as they can harbour bacteria and/or catch on your jewelry.

  • For CHEEKS: Perform 2 to 3 (5-10 minute) saline compresses for the initial 5-6 months, then 2 to 3 (3 minute) compresses for the next 3 months, then 1 compress daily for 3 months after that.

What is Expected (Normal)

During the first 3-7 days you can expect some light bleeding and/or bruising, tenderness, and plenty of swelling! Afterwards, some swelling will remain and you may notice the secretion of a whitish fluid – This is normal!

You’ll also have to adjust to the long bar length, which (annoying and unsightly as it may be) is necessary to accommodate the swelling. Take extra care to avoid biting down on the jewelry when eating and/or speaking as this can damage the teeth.

How to help reduce initial swelling:

  • Sucking (NOT chewing) on ice cubes. TIP: While slushies might feel nice and soothing, try to avoid options containing lots of sugar as this can contribute to a build-up of plaque bacteria that can form on the jewelry/structures near the open tissue and cause irritation or infection.

  • Keep your head elevated above your heart. Prop your head up using pillows while you sleep.

  • Take an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) as indicated, unless advised otherwise by your doctor.

  • Speak easy. Limit things that cause the jewelry to move such as: speaking, playing with it, or showing it off.

Your piercing may seem healed before the entire healing process is complete. Although it may look and feel fine, remember that piercings heal from the outside in. Be patient, and remain diligent with your aftercare.

Remember…even healed piercings can shrink or close in minutes after having been there for years! While this can vary from person to person; if you like your piercing it’s best to keep quality jewelry in place.

Once the swelling has subsided, it’s important to downsize the initial post length to avoid intra-oral damage. *We offer a complimentary exchange and 25% discount off of basic jewelry when downsizing any oral piercing (performed in our studio) within 4 weeks of original appointment. Because this necessary jewelry change often occurs during healing, it should be done by a qualified piercer using a sterilized replacement.

*Cheek piercing care requires a much more comprehensive (and often costly) approach to downsizing and aftercare; please discuss this ahead of time with your piercer.

Maintaining Proper Oral Hygiene

Brush your teeth, tongue, and jewelry (gently) and use your chosen rinse (saline or mouthwash) after every meal. Change your toothbrush regularly and store it in a clean area away from other toothbrushes. A soft bristled brush is preferable while healing. Once healed, brush the jewelry more thoroughly to avoid plaque buildup.

Plaque bacteria can form on any hard structure inside the mouth, so be sure to include a gentle brush of the jewelry as part of your regular routine. After 48 hours, plaque left on teeth and/or jewelry becomes hardened (tartar) making it more difficult to remove and can put your teeth, gums, and piercing in jeopardy. Once tartar is present, only a dentist will be able to remove it. If your jewelry becomes coated, it should be replaced with a smooth alternative.

Tips for Eating

Eating may be difficult with your initial bar length, and damage to teeth can be costly and painful. Take extra time and care to note exactly where your jewelry rests before you bite down on anything. Essentially, don’t bite off more than you can chew (pun intended).

  • Place soft bits of food directly onto your molars, and chew SLOWLY!

  • Avoid anything that requires big bites or opening your mouth too widely. With labrets (cheeks/lips), the jewelry may catch on the inside of your teeth when closing your mouth, so do so SLOWLY!

  • With tongue piercings, keep the tongue as level in the mouth as possible to avoid tilting the jewelry toward your teeth. It only takes one misaligned bite to cause a lot of damage.

  • Avoid hot temperatures, acids, and spicy/salty foods; which can damage/irritate the healing tissue.

  • Avoid sticky foods, such as white bread and potato, which may make cleaning more difficult.

  • Avoid hard foods that need to be broken up by forceful chewing

Once the piercing is healed and your jewelry has been downsized, you may resume a your regular diet. The risk of biting down on the jewelry, however, will remain (although reduced with properly fitting jewelry) so care should always be taken when eating.

Live a Healthy, Active Lifestyle

The healthier your lifestyle, the easier it will be to heal and care for your piercing.

  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night

  • Eat a nutritious diet and avoid processed/sugary foods

  • Exercise daily and practice self-love

  • Avoid stress as much as possible. Stress has been proven to negatively impact healing and overall health. You may find that healing takes longer/is more problematic during periods of stress.

  • Drink plenty of water

Helpful Jewelry Tips

Threaded ends on your jewellery need to be checked DAILY (with clean hands) for tightness. (“Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey”). A paper product or latex glove will give you extra grip on the jewelry. HINT: Don’t attempt to check jewelry while in the shower or over a sink; if you accidentally twist the wrong direction and the end comes loose, it’ll disappear down the drain and you’ll be quite sad. Looking in a mirror can also confuse you when trying to determine which direction is used to tighten. Instead, think: the end will always twist clockwise into the post.

In case of incidental loss, it’s always a good idea to carry an extra bead with you.

If your jewelry must be temporarily removed (such as for a medical procedure), contact your piercer for a non-metallic jewelry alternative. These should only be used as a temporary measure until a quality post can be safely reinserted.

If you decide you no longer want the piercing, simply remove the jewelry (or contact us for assistance) and continue cleaning the piercing until the hole closes. In most cases only a small mark will remain.

In the event an infection is suspected, quality jewelry or an inert alternative should be left in place to allow for drainage. Should the jewelry be removed prematurely, the surface can close up and seal the infection inside the piercing channel, resulting in a painful abscess that will require surgical intervention. Until an infection is cleared up, leave the jewelry in!

Things to Avoid

Avoid playing with your jewelry. Excessive movement of the jewelry can lead to the formation of unsightly and uncomfortable scar tissue, migration, and can cause/speed up permanent damage to the tooth enamel and gum line. We consider most oral piercings to be ‘temporary’ as even a well-fitting, quality post can cause gradual damage to the oral structures inside the mouth. Regular check ups with your dentist should be scheduled and recommendations on retiring a piercing should always by followed in order to preserve oral health.

Avoid using mouthwash containing alcohol while healing. It can irritate the piercing and delay healing.

Avoid any oral sexual contact including bodily fluids throughout the entire duration of healing.

Avoid chewing on tobacco, gum, fingernails, and other foreign objects that could harbour bacteria and cause an infection.

Avoid smoking full stop! It increases risks of infection and lengthens healing time. If you insist on smoking, a thorough aftercare routine should be performed after each session.

Avoid stress and all recreational drug use.

Avoid aspirin (unless prescribed by your doctor), alcohol, and large amounts of caffeine as long as you are experiencing bleeding or swelling.

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