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A mouth piercing is a form of body modification that involves inserting a piece of jewelry through the lips, tongue, or other parts of the mouth.
Mouth piercings date back to archaeological records and continue in some modern cultures. The Moche of ancient Peru often wore gold or copper lip plugs, among many other types of piercings.1
There are many different types of oral piercings:
The most popular tongue piercing method is one piercing directly through the center of the tongue. Some people choose to have two or more tongue piercings.
This piercing is called dorsoventral tongue piercing, as it goes from the top through to the bottom of the tongue.
Some people have their tongue pierced through the width of their tongue, called dorsolateral tongue piercing. Most piercers won’t do this piercing, as they consider it too dangerous due to the number of blood vessels that could be nicked.
Lip piercings occur through or around the lips and come in different types, including:2
There are also different styles to choose from, including:
Two frenums in your mouth can be pierced. The upper one is above your top front teeth and is also known as a smiley piercing. The bottom frenum is under your tongue and is known as a tongue web piercing.
A uvula piercing is when the dangly part that hangs at the back of the throat is pierced.
Another piercing you may choose is to have your cheek pierced.
There are some risks and complications specific to oral piercings. They can vary depending on the type and location:
Because of the many risks, the official position of the American Dental Association (ADA) is against oral piercings.7
Oral piercings hurt, but the pain varies from person to person. Many people report that tongue piercings, for example, hurt a lot less than they expected.
However, because you use your mouth to eat, there will likely be quite a bit of discomfort in the days after the initial piercing. Discomfort may not be so severe with other piercings.
Typically, oral piercings take around 2 to 3 months to heal.2 A small amount of bleeding, redness, and swelling is normal after a piercing.
It should settle down after a few days. If you still have pain and swelling after a few days, you may have an infection.
As with all body modifications, some side effects can occur from oral piercings:
The APP lists six materials appropriate for new piercings:
Ideally, jewelry used for piercings should be made of implant-grade titanium or surgical stainless steel. These materials are least likely to cause issues such as infections.
Jewelry comes in different forms or shapes. The most popular ones are:
Typically, the jewelry the piercer uses is larger than the jewelry you’ll wear once the piercing heals. This allows room for swelling and helps the piercing heal properly.
There are several things to look out for when choosing a piercer. A reputable piercer should be licensed and have an up-to-date certification. They should also be registered professionally, such as with the Association of Professional Piercers (APP).3
The APP is an international organization that provides professional development for piercers and supports members with continuing education programs.
Follow these steps to find a reputable piercer for your mouth piercing:
Avoid the following factors when looking for a place to get your piercings:2
Additionally, avoid places and piercers who use piercing guns. No reputable piercing studio or experienced piercer will use a piercing gun. This is because piercing guns:
Piercings are a popular body modification, but they require care to maintain and prevent infection. Your piercer should provide you with aftercare instructions.
Always wash your hands thoroughly before touching any piercings. Additionally:
Additional tips include:
Your mouth is full of bacteria that can infect the piercing site. Food that collects around the jewelry also allows bacteria to breed. And, when you touch your mouth jewelry, you may introduce bacteria from your hands to your mouth.
If you don’t keep the area clean, you may develop an infection at the piercing site, which may cause speech, chewing, and swallowing issues. They may also cause swelling, which can block the throat.
Signs of infection include:
If you do have an infection, you can try the following
If you’re unsure if you have an infection, seek professional advice as soon as possible.
Also, seek medical attention if the infection doesn’t clear up after 3 days of treating it at home. You may need to take oral antibiotics or remove the piercing.
Oral piercings are not recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA). They can cause damage to the teeth, among many other complications, if not cared for properly. However, many people experience no complications at all.
If you choose to get an oral piercing, make sure that you go to a reputable piercer. Follow the aftercare instructions carefully to ensure proper healing.
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