Infected Tongue Piercing

Do you have an Infected Tongue Piercing?

In general, the piercings at the level of the tongue heal quickly, without any additional problems. However, in some cases, the tongue piercing can become infected, causing a wide range of symptoms. It is import to recognize the signs of such an infection, before it becomes life-threatening (sepsis).

infected tongue piercing

Picture of an Infected Tongue Piercing – How do you know if your tongue piercing is infected?

For the majority of the tongue piercings, it does not take for more than 6-8 weeks for the tissues to heal. During the first two weeks after the piercing, it is normal to experience some discomfort and inflammation (as the pierced area starts to heal). In the situation that other symptoms appear, you need to consider the infection of the tongue piercing. The sooner the diagnosis is made, the faster you can get the antibiotic treatment you need.

Keep in mind that the human mouth can contain a lot of bacteria, all of them just waiting for an entry spot (such as the one provided by the tongue piercing). It is important to get treated for the infection as soon as it is possible, before the bacteria enters the bloodstream and starts spreading to other vital organs.

Signs and symptoms

These are the most common signs and symptoms associated with the infected tongue piercing:

  • Inflammation
    • Prolonged/intense swelling – sign of infection
    • May cause difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Redness
    • Prolonged redness is also a sign of infection
    • Often accompanied by inflammation and intense pain at the site of the piercing
  • Red streaks
    • These radiate from the piercing hole, covering the lateral sides and the front of the tongue (suggestive of an infection)
  • Bleeding
    • It is considered a sign of infection, if it occurs after the healing process has started (ongoing infection)
  • Tongue discoloration
    • Extreme discoloration – the tongue becomes green, yellow, purple or black (suggestive of an advanced, severe infection)
  • Pus discharge (green/yellow)
    • The discharge can be observed at the level of the piercing site
  • Pain or tenderness upon touching the tongue
  • Fever/chills (sign of systemic infection)
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

What Causes Tongue Piercing Infection?

It is clear that piercing the tongue is a traumatic procedure, which leaves the tongue tissue exposed to infection. It is also known that the tongue contains microorganisms, with bacteria standing at the top of the list. The moment the piercing is made at the level of the tongue, which represents a point of entry for the bacteria. The problem is that, once they enter into the bloodstream, bacteria can lead to a systemic infection (with more severe symptoms, potentially life-threatening).

infected tongue piercing that is bleeding

Picture of an infected tongue piercing that started bleeding – What to do?

Among the most common infectious microorganisms that have been associated with the infected tongue piercing, there are: streptococcus, actinomyces, eikenella corrodens, lactobacillus, neisseria, haemophilus aphrophilus, staphylococcus aureus and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus.


These are the most common methods used for the diagnosis of the infected tongue piercing:

Medical history of the patient

  • Date of piercing
  • Conditions in which the piercing was made (sterile)
  • Previous infected piercings
  • Time from piercing to the onset of infection

Physical examination

  • Identification of infection signs at the level of the piercing site
  • Other signs of infection

Laboratory testing

  • CBC (complete blood count) – identification of white blood cell levels
  • Bacterial culture – identification of microorganism responsible for the infection (targeted treatment with antibiotics).

How to treat an Infected tongue Piercing?

First and foremost, if you have noticed that the tongue piercing has become infected, don’t take the stud out by yourself. This will only aggravate the infection, causing the bacteria to spread.

tongue piercing infection bump

Tongue Piercing Infection bump

One of the most important objectives of the treatment is to keep the airways open, so that the patient does not die from suffocation. The doctor might decide to remove the jewelry, if that is possible. Systemic antibiotics are administered, in order to eliminate the bacterial infection. In more severe cases, the surgical drainage of the infection might be necessary (abscess drainage). In general, all patients diagnosed and treated for the infected tongue piercing make a complete recovery.


In order to eliminate the risk of infection, you need to choose a professional piercing saloon. The piercer should be licensed to perform such piercings, using only sterile equipment. Apart from that, he/she should wear gloves and a face mask during the actual piercing. Prophylactic antibiotics should be administered to anyone who is planning on getting a tongue piercing (before the procedure, as a preventative measure).

Once the piercing has been performed, you will have to follow the advice offered in regard to the aftercare. In the situation that you have decided to have your tongue pierced, be sure to choose studs that are made from plastic. Contrary to the popular opinion, these tend to gather far less bacteria, in comparison to the ones that are made from titanium or stainless steel.

In order to guarantee the proper healing of your tongue piercing and avoid infection, you need to avoid smoking and alcohol abuse during that period. Coffee should also be avoided, as well as the foods that are spicy or have an irritating effect. Keep in mind that the recently pierced area is extremely sensitive and you need to do all you can, in order to protect it.

It is recommended that you rinse your mouth after you have eaten a meal. In this way, you will eliminate all food debris from your mouth and reduce the chance of bacterial overgrowth. Mix salt with water for a thorough rinse, making sure that you perform it after each and every meal.

Also, if you want to prevent the bacteria from entering the recent wound, be sure to use a toothbrush and lightly brush the pierced area. According to the specialists in the field, this will prevent the bacteria from penetrating into the wound.


These are the complications that can occur with untreated infected tongue piercings:

  • Fractured teeth
  • Nerve damage
  • Speech impediment
  • Allergic reaction to tongue jewelry
  • Scar tissue
  • Prolonged bleeding
  • Heart problems
  • Brain abscess
  • Infectious diseases (entering through the piercing wound)
    • HIV infection
    • Tetanus
    • Tuberculosis
    • Hepatitis (B, C, D, E)
  • Death (severe systemic infection, with a negative impact on the vital organs).


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