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Getting an oral tattoo or piercing? These 12 tips can prevent fearsome gum infections
If you're a fan of tattoos or piercings of the tongue, lip, cheek or uvula, that's cool – unless they become dangerous to your health. Infection, inflammation, disease – not so cool. Here's how not to let these happen.
Before the procedure
- First, it's important to remember that the inside of your mouth contains millions of bacteria – some good, some bad. Needles, bacteria from hands or jewelry, piercings (especially those in the tongue) – these can introduce bacteria into your tissues and raise the risk of infection and inflammation. As well, when jewelry rubs against your gums they can recede, also enabling harmful bacteria to enter your body. This is why it is so important to prevent your new tattoo or piercing from damaging the health of your gums and other oral tissues.
- Check to make sure the technician you will use is licensed and experienced with oral piercings and tattoos. Ask for referrals from friends or family members who have had problem-free procedures.
- Visit the studio and be sure it looks clean. Ask to see where and how equipment is sterilized. The studio should have a medical sterilizer that is tested every few weeks to ensure it is working properly.
- Inquire about the quality of piercing jewellery; it should be titanium or medical-grade stainless steel.
- When you have the procedure, check that the technician uses only new ink and needles and request that the packaging be opened in front of you. Also, be sure the technician is wearing new latex or vinyl gloves when working on you.
- Ask about the risks of the procedure and what care routine you should follow afterward to avoid problems.
After the procedure
- Keep the tattoo or piercing site and any jewelry clean and use an alcohol-free antiseptic mouth rinse often, especially after you eat or drink. Carefully follow the aftercare advice you receive from the technician.
- Remove jewelry daily. Separate the pieces and clean them well to eliminate the bacteria that accumulate.
- Once the site heals, follow good oral care and visit a dentist or dental hygienist regularly – problems can arise at any time and a dental professional can help to reduce risks.
Watch for signs of infection or damage
To protect your health, you need to be alert to complications from any type of oral tattoo or piercing. Problems could appear immediately or may develop gradually over weeks, months or even years. If you experience any signs of infection, pain, swelling or fever, see a dentist or doctor immediately.
- Lip and cheek piercings: If you intend to get a lip piercing, make sure it is closer to the lip than the chin to avoid gum irritation. Constant pressure from a stud or other jewelry can damage the gum tissue and cause it to recede. As well, there are tiny salivary glands throughout our lips and inner cheeks that can be damaged by piercings. If you notice any bubble-like swellings that appear, recede and reappear, make an appointment with a dentist.
- Tongue piercing: Our tongues are a large muscle with extensive blood and nerve networks. Since piercings in the tongue are longer than other types of oral piercings, healing is slower and there is a higher risk of deeper infection. Since swelling of the tongue can restrict breathing, if you experience persistent swelling or pain, remove the piercing and seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
- Inside lip tattoo: Again, be watchful for signs of infection. Since lip tattoos are not long lasting – they fade because of moisture and acid in the mouth – people sometimes have them redone. This also increases the risk of infection.
By following good oral care and "watching your mouth" you can enjoy a trouble-free tattoo or piercing that's really YAAASSS!