In This Article
When you think of a piercing in your mouth, your mind probably goes straight to tongue piercings. They are probably the most common, but there are several styles and placements for in-mouth piercings for you to consider if this is a road you'd like to go down.
You might be surprised to learn that piercings inside your mouth are actually very different from ones on the outside of your body. They come with their own set of risks, aftercare instructions, and possible healing difficulties. We've rounded up what you should know about these piercings before you decide to get one.
Placement: Center of the tongue or the webbing underneath the tongue
Pricing: $30-$50 for piercing only
Pain Level: 6+
Healing Time: Three to four weeks
Aftercare: No smoking; avoid kissing and oral sex; rinse with non-alcoholic mouthwash several times a day, especially after meals.
What is an In-Mouth Piercing?
In-mouth piercings come in several different varieties. Tongue piercings have become one of the most popular options for people into body modification. Still, this piercing can cause some difficulties. Placement is crucial, in order to avoid getting a speech impediment afterwards. Frowny frenulum piercings are performed across the thin line of tissue (frenulum) that connects your bottom lip to your gums. It usually can't be seen at all unless intentionally revealed, which makes it a popular choice for people who want a piercing they can hide. And smiley (also known as scrumper) piercings are done in the upper lip frenulum, the thin connective tissue that links your upper lip to your gums. This piercing can often be seen when you smile, hence the name.
Pain and Healing Time
This will vary slightly depending on the type of in-mouth piercing you choose. Generally speaking, "the piercing that is done first will hurt the least, the piercing that is done last what hurt the most," says Brian Keith Thompson, owner and Chief Piercing Officer of Body Electric Tattoo in Los Angeles. "It's definitely tolerable, you can do it, just muster up the courage." Standard tongue piercings will likely hurt less than some alternative placements.
Tongue piercings are done with a large needle (10 to 14 gauge). Swelling and soreness can last for three to four weeks. A smiley piercing or tongue web piercing should heal in about four weeks if you're healthy and do proper aftercare. However, healing times can vary widely per person. "Piercings are definitely a patience game," says Thompson, who suggests that most will take "at least 10 to 12 weeks to heal."
Cost of an In-Mouth Piercing
The price of an in-mouth piercing will vary depending on the type, and also the cost of the jewelry you select. With most piercing services, the piercing itself is priced separately from the jewelry. Be wary of salons that charge too little. If a mouth piercing is advertised for $20 or less, run. "You think you're getting a deal, but you're really not, so definitely spend the money," says Thompson. Mouth piercings in particular are especially delicate because they can lead to permanent damage if done or cared for poorly.
"If it's really cheap and they're offering deals, I would say that's a red flag. If you're really good at what you do, you really don't have to offer a discount," Thompson adds.
Most piercers recommend multiple daily sea salt rinses during healing. "After oral piercings, make sure to rinse mouth often with non alcohol mouthwash after eating and before bed. Make sure not to share food or saliva with others during the healing process to avoid infection," says dermatologist Dr. Shari Sperling. "A barbell in your mouth, or any type of metal, will harbor a little bit more bacteria. So, if you do have one of these piercings, you need to make sure that you're really keeping your oral hygiene up to par and really brushing the jewelry, the backside of it, cleaning it, getting all the plaque and bacteria off," says Thompson.
Unfortunately for some, you can't smoke or even use harsh mouthwash while your tongue is healing. You're even advised against kissing and oral sex during the healing process, at least while the wound is fresh. Over-cleaning the piercing can also cause problems. If you experience irritation, don't panic. "Most of the time, it's not an actual bacterial infection, it's an irritation from trauma from cheaper jewelry, jewelry laden with nickel, or, just you know, sometimes the client is just a little too overzealous with cleaning it," says Thompson. "They think, well now I'm going to clean it three times a day, and I'm going to cover it with alcohol and antibiotic ointment, and that really is not going to fix the problem. The problem is that you need to leave it alone."
Side Effects of Piercing
Problems that can develop later down the lines with tongue piercings include the risk of chipping your teeth and biting down on your jewelry.
- Migration or rejection: Frowny piercings are extremely prone to migration and rejection. Unfortunately, this is because most people don't have enough tissue for a successful piercing, but some piercers will do it anyway.
- Pain and swelling: These are extremely common side effects for any piercings and don't necessarily indicate a serious problem. However, tongue or lip swelling "can make breathing difficult," notes Sperling, who adds that this "can be life threatening," says Sperling.
- Mouth trauma: Playing with your new piercing too much can result in a chipped tooth or damage to the gums. "Teeth are very expensive to fix and it's something to think about," notes Thompson.
- Allergic reaction: "Allergic reactions can occur with piercings if allergic to nickel, cobalt or gold among others," says Sperling. Be mindful of the metal your new jewelry is made from.
"There is risk of infection with any type of piercing. The risk of infection is even greater in the oral mucosa since there are tons of bacteria there," notes Sperling.
How to Change Out In-Mouth Piercing
"Three months is my my Golden Rule", says Thompson. He recommends at least 10 to 12 weeks with the same piece of jewelry. "Definitely change it out with something of quality," he adds. "It's been three four months and then you put something of low-quality in and you'll notice [the piercing] starts to regress. That's because it is technically healed, but it takes almost a year for your body just to be able to wear anything."
What Type of Jewelry Is Used for In-Mouth Piercing?
- Curved barbell: This is the most common type of jewelry for a new tongue or lingual frenulum piercings; it's a curved bar with balls on either side, one of which is removable for easy application and removal. According to Thompson, this style of jewelry remains fairly stationary, making it a great pick for a new in-mouth piercing. "The more the piercing is rotated, the longer it's going to take for it to heal."
- Captive bead ring: Another style popular for new piercings under the tongue, this is a hoop with a fixed bead in the center. These are popular for frowny frenulum piercings.
- Circular barbell: For smiley frenulum piercings, delicate jewelry is used usually in the form of a circular barbell. Circular is a misnomer, as the barbell is actually horseshoe shaped.
What Jewelry Material Is Used for In-Mouth Piercing?
- Titanium: Thompson prefers "hypoallergenic metals" without nickel, like titanium and gold. "Nickel is not going to kill you. It's not going to it's not going to poison you, it's not going to cause you to become a jerk [...] but it can cause a slower heal."
- Gold: Another good option for in-mouth piercings, gold is a softer metal that can be easier on the teeth and gums, according to Thompson. Just be sure you're finding quality, solid gold, rather than gold-plated jewelry which can flake off and encourage infection.