Healing a piercing has three different stages.
1. The acceptance phase which usually last 10 to 14 days depending on the piercing and how healthy you are. During your body will try to reject this foreign object aka Jewelry that we have placed in it. At some point the body relies that it can't reject the jewelry and may show some of the signs of infection, such as discoloration, swelling, tenderness to touch and heat.
2. Once the body decides that it can't reject the jewelry it will begin to produce new skin growth around the jewelry. This starts at the piercing holes and toward the center of the piercing. During this period the body will produce lymph discharge which is made up of Plasma and the waste from the production of new skin cells. This will harden on the jewelry at the piercing holes in a hard crust. In oral piercings where it is warm and moist the discharge will not harden and often will form in long "snot" like strings. Since the new skin growth is often thin and tight, there maybe periods where the jewelry seems tight or can not be moved easily. Also the piercing can goes through periods of redness and discomfort especially if the piercing is abused. During this period your piercing is an open wound and precautions must be taken to insure that the piercing doesn't become infected. Including cross contamination prevention, daily cleaning and compresses or soaks. This phase ends when the skin is joined at the center of the piercing. The body will stop producing the discharge and the piercing holes will pull inward.
3. The toughing phase is the last period of healing and other that time really doesn't need any additional care. During this phase which can take up to 3 years, your body produces additional skin to make more space for the jewelry and to thicken the scar tissue to protect against tears. Even at the end of the this phase the piercing is not permanent and removal of the jewelry for long periods will cause the body to reconnect the tissue and close the piercing.
Since the average person is not used to having an open wound on their body for a long period of time, chances are that during the piercings healing time the piercee will introduce some kind of bacteria or other pathogens, or contaminate to the piercing. As a safe guard against infection and other problems, I suggest using an anti-bacterial soap as a precaution and to help your immune system.
There are a number of products on the market for piercing after. The most common being Ear Care and O2Ocean.
Ear Care - the biggest issue is that it is simply too harsh to use over a long period of time. It may in fact increase the healing time.
O2Ocean has a could of issues. At it's heart it is a mild saline solution. Basically Sea Salt and Water. The issue is that they try to say that it is containment free which isn't possible because of their packaging. Another issue is that it doesn't have the same benefits of a Hot Soak or Compress and they both can be done at a much cheaper cost of buying distilled water and Sea Salt. Lastly the product contains Egg Whites which brings up the question of self life and since it is not clearly marked on the package those that have egg sensitivities.
Other products like Betadine, Hibiclens, and Bactine are far too harsh and will prolong healing and can lead to other problems. Also Rubbing Alcohol, Witch Hazel, Tea Tree Oil and hydrogen peroxide have the same issues. The reality is there is no prefect product for healing a piercing. However, in the few decades I've had a great deal of success with simply an anti-bacterial soap and hot soaks or compresses with warm distilled water and sea salt.
About every couple of years some new form of aftercare product will come into favor. Often these products are pushed by manufactures hoping to cash in on piercing. Sometimes there are great results at first but when used on wide section of the public, have brought about wide spread issues. It's why I've always been conservative in trying new products.
Biotene feels two important needs when healing an oral piercing. First it is an anti-bacterial Mouth wash. The second is it is not as harsh as other mouth washes that would increase the risk of Thrush.
In the professional piercing community there has always been a group of individuals that has suggested not doing any type of aftercare at all. The bases of their thinking is that since most of the native cultures from around the world have been healing piercings since the beginning of time, there is no need to take any additional steps to guard against infection. That the human immune system would fight off any infection.
The problem with this thinking is that in most of these cultures there was limited contact with the outside world. Most members of the culture spent their whole life within a 20 mile radius of their birth. That isn't the case in a modern city. We are exposed to countless pathogens that have piggy back on our fellow humans from every part of the world.
Also our environment leads to more exposure to pathogens simply because we spend a great deal of time in an enclosed space we share with countless other humans. In these environments there are countless shared surfaces such as door knobs, hand rails, sinks, etc... All of which we touch on a daily bases. Now we would like to think that a majority of us wash our hands but the truth is a lot of us don't.
Consider the amount of pathogens that you come in contact in one day. The number of surfaces at work or shopping or at bar and then think of how many times you wash your hands. Now consider what else you touch and throw an open wound aka a healing piercing into the mix. See why aftercare is needed?
Non-oral piercings - Mild Anti-bacterial hand Soap. Most common Dial Gold Anti-bacterial Liquid Hand Soap. However, Grapefruit Seed Oil based anti-bacterial liquid soap or medical grade soaps like Satin or Proven will work too. You will also need sea salt and distilled water. If your piercing is one where a soak can be done easily, I suggest buying plastic one uses medicine cups. Also it is always best to have plenty of clean unused paper towels on hand.
Oral Piercings - All of the above, unless it is a tongue piercing where you don't need soap. Biotene Antiseptic Mouth wash would be the only additional item.
Most grocery stores will have most, if not all, the items you need. Some department stores may have all of what you need. Like Target or Walmart. However, most drug store will not have all the items which seems to surprise people.