Mouth Piercings: Everything You Need To Know

Mouth Piercings: Everything You Need To Know

 Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Medical Reviewed on Oct 17, 2023
byDr. Matthew Hannan DDS
🔬 Evidence Based
Mouth Piercings: Everything You Need To Know

Thinking about getting an oral piercing? Already have mouth jewelry? While your dentist might not be your biggest fan, they are here to help ensure your mouth and smile stay healthy, regardless! 

What Is A Mouth Piercing?

Oral piercings are any type of pierced area on the lips, frenum, tongue, or somewhere inside of the mouth. Some mouth piercings are visible from the outside of your mouth, can only be seen when you smile, or are totally hidden out of plain sight unless you purposely show someone. 

Some of the most common areas for oral piercings are the tongue, upper frenum, and lower frenum. The frenum is the strip of skin right behind the middle of your lip that attaches to the gums on the teeth next to it. Lip piercings—like the jestrum, medusa style, snake bites, or chin piercings, to name a few—are also considered oral piercings because one side of the jewelry is visible and rubs the inside of the mouth.

And believe it or not, some people even have a uvula piercing (that hangy-down-thing in the back of your throat.)

Do Mouth Piercings Hurt?

One word: yes. Some types of mouth piercings hurt more than others. But just like getting your ears or your nose pierced, it’s over in a matter of moments. You simply have to hype yourself up and sit still long enough for your piercer to do their job. If you’re getting multiple oral piercings, most piercers will do the easiest one first, then work up to the most painful one last. 

But it’s not just the process of getting a piercing that can hurt. The area may be painful if it gets infected or caught on something, so you’ll need to follow important home care instructions to make sure everything heals properly.

Cost Of An Oral Piercing

Most mouth piercings cost at least $30 (sometimes upwards of $100) for the actual piercing. But that cost usually doesn’t include the price of the oral jewelry, so be sure to factor that into the equation as well. Since you’ll want something high-quality, the cost of the mouth jewelry will usually be anywhere from $20 or $30 to over $100, especially since some higher-end ones are made out of solid gold. 

Going the cheap route for an oral piercing may mean a higher risk of redness and irritation. Make sure you go somewhere that uses hospital-grade sterilization practices.

How To Take Care Of New Oral Piercings 

If you’re set on getting a new mouth piercing or just got one and want to know the best way to care for it, here’s what you need to plan for:

1. Zero smoking. 

Smoking and tobacco products, including vaping, delay healing in your mouth. That’s why people with gum disease typically don’t see any improvement if they’re also smoking. If you’re getting an oral piercing, you need to be completely off of tobacco and vaping products. 

2. Rinse your mouth after every meal. 

Just make sure you’re using a non-alcoholic mouthwash or salt water. Anything that’s too harsh will sting and delay the healing, which could cause inflammation and redness. 

3. Avoid kissing and oral sex. 

Moving your mouth around too much is just an invitation for the piercing to get pushed out of place, which could tear your oral mucosa. A little peck on the lips is fine, but save the French kissing for at least 12 weeks later. 

4. Clean the piercing area as directed. 

At first, you won’t want to irritate the oral piercing, but after a couple of months, you can start to clean around it with a soft toothbrush (make sure to do so gently.)

How Long Does A Oral Piercing Take To Heal? 

A typical ear or body piercing takes about 6-8 weeks to heal (or up to four months if it’s in the cartilage.) Oral piercings take quite a bit longer than your standard ear piercing. Most of them—whether it’s in your tongue or frenum—take a minimum of 3 to 4 months to heal. But your body may still be recovering from the oral piercing as long as a year after you get your mouth jewelry. 

Oral Piercing SiteHealing Time
Lower lip piercings6 to 8 weeks
Upper lip piercings2 to 3 months
Tongue piercings3 to 4 months

If you’re not careful, you can irritate the piercing site and delay your recovery time. For example, if you clean the area too hard with a toothbrush or are always using a harsh mouth rinse (like one with alcohol in it,) your oral piercing site won’t heal nearly as quickly.

Oral Piercing Risks

There are three main risks you have to worry about if you’re getting a mouth piercing:

Infection around the piercing. Aside from gum and tooth damage, infection is one of the biggest risks of getting a mouth piercing. Since our mouths are full of bacteria anyway, and you have to be careful about cleaning the piercing site; redness and swelling are extremely common. If it’s too severe, inflammation can even block off your airway.

The jewelry getting pulled or ripped out of place. If you aren’t careful, your mouth jewelry might get caught on your food, pulled while you’re putting on a shirt to get dressed, or even displaced if you’re kissing someone. 

Damage to your teeth or gums adjacent to the jewelry. Gum recession is extremely common on the teeth next to mouth jewelry because of the metal constantly rubbing against the gums in that space. And if you accidentally bite down on the jewelry, you could chip a tooth or break dental work.

Oral Piercings Types & Metals

The type of oral jewelry that you wear and what it’s made out of can also make a difference in how quickly your mouth heals and whether there’s unnecessary irritation.

Some of the most common types of mouth-piercing jewelry include:

Curved barbell: Common for lingual frenum/frenulum and tongue piercings. It’s a curved bar that has balls on either end. One of the bars is usually threaded (screw-in) or threadless (snap-in) to place and remove the jewelry.

Captive bead ring: This one is a hoop that has one fixed bead in the middle of it. 

Circular barbells: A horseshoe-shaped barbell with balls on either end.

Labret piercings: A type of press-fit post that’s sometimes used to create larger openings, like in the lip or ears. They usually consist of two parts, like a post with a ball or disk.

Monroe piercings: The Monroe piercing, also known as the Madonna piercing, is a type of lip piercing that is located on the upper lip, above the left or right side of the Cupid's bow.

Metals used for oral jewelry should usually be made out of titanium or solid gold. Fun fact, titanium is also used to make dental implants because of how safe it is (and you probably already knew that some dental crowns are made out of gold.) These higher-end metals are safe and hypoallergenic, so you run less of a risk of irritation. Just be warned: don’t swap your jewelry out for something cheap or anything gold-plated, as you run a higher risk of infection and swelling. 

How Painful Are Mouth Piercings?

Lip, tongue, and mouth piercings can vary in pain level, as it depends on the individual's pain tolerance and the location of the piercing. However, they are generally considered to be painful and may cause discomfort during the healing process. Anesthesia or numbing cream can be used to help reduce pain during the piercing process.

Talk With Your Dentist And A Piercing Professional

The American Dental Association warns putting any type of piercing in your mouth runs the risk of an oral infection, irritation to your cheeks/lips/tongue, or the chances of biting down on the jewelry and breaking a tooth. But if you’re extra careful, you can still have a healthy smile while enjoying your mouth piercing.

Be sure to have your dentist check the area immediately around your mouth piercing during your six-month exams. They’ll want to make sure the tissues are healthy, there are no signs of gum recession, and that the jewelry isn’t rubbing or chipping off any tooth structures

Since repairing broken or worn-out teeth is a lot more expensive than an oral piercing, you may need to remove your mouth jewelry if unwanted side effects begin to occur. The best thing to do is to be careful and have the area monitored by your dentist. The person performing your lip and tongue piercings will also be a good resource as you plan for any unexpected issues as they arise. 

 Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH"Teeth Talk Girl," is a registered dental hygienist. She started her dental health journey on YouTube, educating the public through videos.
Dr. Matthew  Hannan DDS
Medical Reviewed byDr. Matthew Hannan DDSDr. Matthew Hannan is a board-certified dentist and graduate of UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry.
Last updated onMarch 26, 2024Here is our process

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