CLEANING SOLUTIONS

Biotene/Cepacol or other alcohol-free antibacterial mouth rinse two to three times a day and earcare or saline for the exterior.

Also: Mild sea salt water rinses. Dissolve a 1/4 teaspoon non-iodised (iodine-free) sea salt to one cup warm to hot water. Avoid hot water for the first few days.

TO CLEAN THE OUTSIDE OF A LIP, LABRET OR BEAUTY SPOT

1. Before cleaning, wash hands thoroughly with liquid antibacterial soap and hot water. You may wear disposable latex or vinyl gloves. Never touch healing piercings with dirty hands. This is vital for avoiding infections.

2. Prepare the cleansing area by rinsing or soaking with warm water and be sure to remove any stubborn crust using a cotton swab and warm water. Never pick with fingernails!

3. Apply a small amount of cleaning solution to a cotton swab and the cleanse the area and jewellery. Do not rotate your jewellery.

4. Rinse the area thoroughly with running water

5. Gently pat dry with disposable paper products such as gauze or tissues as cloth towels can harbour bacteria

WHAT IS NORMAL

Swelling of the area is perfectly normal during the first stage of healing an oral piercing. It can be greatly reduced by gently sucking (rather than chewing) on clean ice. Small cubes, chipped or shaved ice is the best. The majority of the swelling usually lasts for only 3 - 5 days.

Any new piercing may occasionally bleed for a few days. There can also be some bleeding under the surface resulting in temporary bruising or discolouration. This is perfectly normal and not indicative of any compilation.

Some tenderness or discomfort in the area of a new piercing is not unusual. You may feel aching, pinching, tightness or other unpleasant sensations off and on for several days or longer.

Don't be alarmed if you see a fairly if you see a fairly liquid, yellowish secretion from the piercing. This is blood plasma, lymph and dead cells which is perfectly normal. All healing piercings secrete, it just looks different inside the mouth as it doesn't have a chance to dry and form a crust as it does on ear or body piercings. This is not pus, but indicates a healing piercing.

Plaque may form on tongue jewellery, commonly on the bottom ball and or post. Scrub your barbell with a soft bristled toothbrush (gently during healing). Ulceration can occur through the irritation of your jewellery rubbing against the soft tissue of your mouth. Warm salt water rinses are advised as well as using an ulcer gel from a pharmacy such as seda gel or bon gela.

Piercings may have a tendency to have a series of ups and downs during healing by seeming healed and then regressing. Try to be patient and continue to clean the piercing, even if it seems to have healed early.

Each body is unique and healing times can vary considerably. If you have any questions, please contact your piercer.

Once initial swelling is down having your piercer replace the post portion of bar style jewellery with a shorter post or smaller diameter ring may be wise. Jewellery which fits more closely is less likely to irritate your mouth or get between your teeth and be bitten. This should be done 4 weeks after the initial piercing.

If you like your piercing, leave jewellery in at all times. Even healed piercings can shrink or close in minutes after having been there for years! This varies from person to person and even if your ear lobe piercings stay open without jewellery your oral piercings may not!

Keep following care procedures during the entire minimum initial healing time even if the piercing seems healed sooner.

WHAT TO DO

Try to sleep with your head propped up on pillows during the first few nights of healing; keeping your head above your heart will help to avoid much initial overnight swelling.

An over the counter, non-steroid anti-inflammatory such as Ibuprofen (Neurofen) taken according to instructions can reduce discomfort and it can also help to diminish swelling in the first few days.

Check twice daily with clean hands to be sure the threaded ends on your jewellery are on tight. To clean hands, wash them carefully with liquid antibacterial soap.

Replace your toothbrush and make sure to keep it clean so that everything that goes into your mouth is hygienic while you are healing. A sensitive type of toothpaste may be less irritating to your mouth during healing than the standard stronger varieties.

Try to go slowly when you eat and to take small bites when you are getting used to your jewellery. Cold foods and beverages feel great and can help diminish swelling. Drink plenty of liquids especially bottled water.

Get enough sleep and eat a nutritious diet. The healthier your lifestyle, the easier it will be for your piercing to heal.

A multi-vitamin mineral supplement containing Zinc and Vitamin C may help boost your body's healing abilities. Take them according to the manufacturer's instructions.

ORAL PIERCING HINTS AND TIPS

Some piercers will carry a spare ball in their wallet or purse. This is particularly advisable if you wear non-metallic balls such as acrylic, which are more fragile.

If you break or lose a ball, a small piece of clean pencil eraser can be press fit onto the post as an emergency measure to keep the jewellery from coming out until a replacement can be obtained. On barbells/labret studs you may change the ball portion of the jewellery at any time, but the original post should remain until initial swelling is down.

TONGUE: Try to focus on keeping your tongue level in your mouth to avoid biting on the jewellery as you eat. Your mouth is likely to feel uncoordinated at first, but this will pass.

Try eating small bites of solid foods by placing the food directly onto the molars with clean fingers or a fork. Food that is already in the back of your mouth doesn't have to be moved there by your tongue.

Gently brush your tongue and jewellery when you are healing. Once healed brush tongue and jewellery thoroughly to keep plaque away.

LIP/BEAUTY SPOT/LABRET: Be cautious about opening your mouth wide when you eat, as this can result in the backing of the jewellery catching on your teeth. Take small bites and go slowly at first.

These piercings may swell to double normal size. As a result it may be necessary to resize twice as the swelling increases then reduces.

WHAT TO AVOID

No oral sexual contact including French (wet) kissing or oral sex during the entire initial healing period, even if you are in a monogamous relationship. If you had a large cut you wouldn't allow anyone to spit in it! This is essentially the same thing.

Avoid chewing on gum, tobacco, finger nails, pencils, sunglasses etc during healing. Don't share plates, cups or eating utensils.

Reducing smoking or quitting is highly advisable when healing an oral piercing. Smoking increases risks of infection and can lengthen the healing time. Avoid undue stress and recreational drug usage.

Stay away from aspirin, alcoholic beverages and large amounts of caffeine for the first two weeks. These can cause additional swelling, bleeding and discomfort. Refrain from eating, spicy, salty, acidic or hot temperature foods and beverages for a few days.

Do not play with the piercing for the initial healing time beyond the necessary movement for speaking and eating. The mouth withstands alot of trauma from normal speaking and eating. Try to avoid other disturbances such as excessive talking, actively playing with the jewellery or clicking the jewellery against your teeth. Undue stress can cause the formation of unsightly and uncomfortable scar tissue, migration and other complications.

Even after healing, excessive play with oral jewellery can result in permanent damage to teeth, gums and oral structures. Metal is harder than the human body. Be gentle.

Do not use Listerine or other mouthwash which contains alcohol. It can irritate the area and delay healing.

Don't use too many different products; select and use only one cleaning solution (Biotene) plus sea salt.

HEALING TIMES

Tongue: 6-8 weeks
Labret/Lip 6-8 weeks
Beauty spot 2-3 months
Top lip 2-3 months

DISCLAIMER

These guidelines are based on a combination of vast professional experience, common sense, research and extensive clinical practice. This is not to be considered a substitute for medical advice from a doctor. However be aware that many doctors have no specific training or experience regarding piercing and may not be educated on how best to assist you.