top of page

Dahlia Piercings 101

Dahlia piercings, sometimes called joker piercings, are piercings that pass through the tissue at the corners of the mouth. They rest inside the mouth and do have a fair amount of contact with teeth and gums given the high-movement nature of this area. They are fun, glittering piercings that add some sparkle and shine to any smile. While the aesthetic of these piercings is unmatched, they are not seen too often. And this is because dahlia piercings are among the more difficult piercings to heal, and the risks they carry are among the most serious. Today we will discuss what the risks with dahlia piercings are, how we can minimize them, and what you can expect if these piercings are on your wishlist.


Dahlias rank above most other piercings when it comes to the importance of proper anatomy and considerations for these piercings. There are multiple key anatomy considerations when we are doing these. First and foremost is finding a “sweet spot” or a safe spot for piercing in the cheeks. Key muscles including the orbicularis oris and zygomatius muscles as well as parotid ducts, transverse and inferior facial arteries, and salivary ducts all run along the insides of our cheeks. There are a lot of important anatomical features we have to be mindful of working around when we pierce dahlias. Some folks have a natural “sweet spot” or a soft area of primary skin and fatty tissue with no major blood flow, salivary ducts, and minimal musculature that we can pierce through. The musculature that is in this area is thinner and more forgiving to pierce and tends to have not a huge range of motion or creases in it. For some this sweet spot is perfectly balanced at the corners of the mouth, for others, it may be a bit further back than they expect. Some folks do not have this area, and anywhere on or around their mouth contains important structures. If you lack this “sweet spot”, dahlia piercings are likely not safe for you to get pierced.

The next important consideration of anatomy is your bite line. When we do these piercings we want to ensure the inside ends are placed in such a way that when you eat, drink, and talk you don’t constantly bite down on them. This means we need to assess your bite, how your teeth sit together when closed, and the angle of your bite- how your teeth open and how they come together. If you have any irregularities to your bite, how your teeth lay, and how they move, dahlia piercings may be severely damaging to your mouth, and it may not be safe for you to get these piercings.

Your piercer will likely massage and feel around inside your mouth quite a bit in order to feel for these internal structures. They may also inspect your mouth with a headlamp or penlight to look for internal structures. You’ll be instructed to open and close your jaw multiple times and possibly in different positions while your piercer looks at your bite line. It’s very important that this consultation is thorough, and your piercer is looking at all of these factors.

You’ll notice we’ve mentioned a ton about anatomy and structure before ever mentioning placement. This is because, with piercings like dahlias, these anatomical features are the most important factor for piercing placement. Quite often I see clients come to see me for cheek or dahlia piercings who are looking for a very specific placement. They want an exact placement in regard to their smile or their eyes. They want these placed at the absolute corner of their mouth as close as possible. But with dahlias where the piercing goes is less about where you want it or think it looks the cutest, and far more about where it is safe for it to be placed and won’t cause serious damage to your mouth. The anatomical structure of the cheek and mouth is our determining factor for placement. If these are piercings you want, I would go into it accepting that placement may vary from your “ideal” spot and be willing to accept placements that are different than what you may have envisioned for yourself for these piercings. Dahilas often end up placed slightly above or slightly below the exact corner of the mouth for stability and anatomy- and this placement tends to heal the best. Having realistic expectations for placement is essential.

Jewelry Considerations

When getting dahlia piercings, it is very important to ensure you get appropriate jewelry for these for healing. Dahlias are an incredibly high-movement area, we are talking, eating, and drinking all day long and this means movement on these piercings. If these are pierced too thin this constant movement can cause the piercings to become irritated and have issues healing. You can learn more about this here. Because of all of this movement, dahlias are much more stable pierced at a 14g-12g minimum. They should never be pierced any smaller than this, and I often see clients pierced at 18g and 16g struggle constantly with irritation bumps and drainage issues. If you are considering getting dahlia piercings, a great question to ask your piercer is what gauge they plan to pierce you with. Anything smaller than 14g is a red flag.

We also need to be mindful of the selection of backing for these. Beads are never appropriate initially- they will be far too easy to bite or catch oil your teeth. Discs or MnM ends are ideal for these to start, based on the anatomy of your bite.

Beyond the thickness of the jewelry, the length of the bars is also a major factor. As we’ve discussed previously on this blog, many piercings swell initially and need longer jewelry for healing. Dahlia’s are among the piercings that swell the most when they are initially pierced. Your first bars are going to be comically long- you will look like you have little antennas sticking out of your face. But I assure you, you will need every last bit of that length for the swelling that will set in over the following days. You should expect your initial barbells to be quite long, and be prepared for the unique experience of eating and drinking with them over the coming days. As the swelling settles they will become manageable, but as it goes down it will become a fun game of trying not to bite or catch them all the time.

Unlike other oral piercings which tend to swell quite a bit, then go down and get downsized, dahlias can have a bit of a different process for their healing…


Dahlias fall somewhere in between traditional lip piercings and cheek piercings in terms of how the downsizing process goes. Dahlias in general often have more swelling than your standard labret piercing- but still less swelling than cheeks. This swelling can be pretty extreme the first week or two, and as such your initial bars will be quite long to accommodate for all this swelling. But the swelling doesn’t go down all at once- rather it tends to go down slowly over time. As it goes down, the bars become long again. You may think to yourself, ok, I’ll just leave those super long bars in for long enough to go right to shorter bars like lip piercing. But with dahlias, if you leave them long you can and will bite and catch them when you eat. Not only can this chip and damage your teeth, but this can also cause the piercings to become very irritated and angry. Dahlias unlike cheeks also have a risk of migration and rejection, and these catches and snags can cause this to happen. So as your swelling goes down, you need to downsize your dahlias to keep them happy and healing well, and your teeth in one piece.

Now sometimes this process is straightforward. Get pierced with long bars, swelling goes down, downsize. Wait a bit, more swelling goes down, downsize. Wait longer, more swelling goes down, and downsize again. Rinse and repeat till they are no longer swollen at all and just healing well. And some folks are fortunate and this is how the process goes- which is great! But….not everyone has luck on their side.

Sometimes we do what I like to call the downsize dance. That means we have some swelling that’s gone down, and we downsize, but sometimes even with the most gentle and cautious piercer just the act of downsizing causes your piercings to swell. They become irritated, and now the downsized bars are too short- and we have to go longer. Sometimes we downsize and then we eat some food that irritates our dahlias, or we get hit in the face by our dog, and bam. Swollen and long again. So then we decide to play it safe and wait longer between downsizing  so we are super sure they are ready to downsize and won’t swell. But, oops! They were long and you bit them eating dinner and now they are irritated and swollen, and can’t be downsized. Weight gain, weight loss, getting sick, seasonal allergies, oral hygiene, eating spicy food, cold weather, hot weather, going swimming, kissing your partner, makeup, skincare, and soap- these are just some of the things that can affect your dahlia piercings and cause them to have a poor reaction.

We end up dancing between sizing, going smaller, then longer, then even longer, then back down. We deal with accidental catches and snags, bumps and bruises, and all of life’s little accidents that can make healing more complicated. This process is honestly fairly common with dahlias, and it’s important if you are getting pierced to realize you may be spending months and even years bouncing around between sizes and figuring out what works for you.

And it’s not just about dealing with this often frustrating back and forth. It’s also about the investment of time and money. It’s a lot of checkups, a lot of going back to see your piercer, and a lot of time spent going to the studio and following up. These different sizes aren’t free- you need to purchase all of these different barbells. Even in an ideal healing situation, you will purchase 10 separate 12g implant-grade titanium barbells, sometimes in custom half sizes. And that’s for a client who only needed 4 downsizes and nothing else. Someone who deals with more back and forth might get 6 or 10 downsizes and be looking at purchasing 20 different barbells. You also may end up needing different ends for the inside of your mouth- discs, mnm ends, and even cabs can all be called for at different times of healing dahlias to deal with irritations and issues they are encountering. While we always hope clients have the smoothest, easiest healing process, many of us don’t with these piercings! You need to be prepared for the expenses associated with all of this different jewelry you may need to get these piercings to heal well.

Healing Timelines

Dahlias can take 1-2 years to fully heal, but are more prone to irritation and issues than other placements and can flare up even long after the healing period has passed. Things like getting sick, eating spicy food, and snagging them while eating, can all cause them to flare up and become swollen, tender, crusty, and irritated all over again. While this is a risk with most piercings, cheeks and dahlias are notorious for being less stable and more prone to these little flareups than other placements. Are Dahlia piercings healed in the sense they aren’t an open wound anymore? Yes. Are they healed like all my other piercings are? Not at all.


Now we can not discuss these piercings without having a frank and honest discussion of the risks that come along with getting dahlia piercings done. As I mentioned above these fall on a spectrum between cheeks and lip piercings. These are not as straightforward as lip piercings, and while they are not as risky as cheeks, they do still carry a large amount of risk.

Chipped Teeth- First and foremost of the risks these cause are chipped and damaged teeth. Because of the placement of these piercings, the need for longer barbells and excess swelling dahlia piercings can have will easily cause a chipped tooth. I would say this risk is higher with dahlias then cheeks in my personal experience. This risk can be minimized a lot by proper placement according to your bite line, by being cautious when you eat and keeping on top of downsizing, but it is a serious risk. This is why downsizing is so important with these piercings, I can not stress enough how essential it is you downsize these accordingly.

Gum Loss- Much like chipped teeth, gum damage is a risk. Proper placement, good downsizing, and nesting can minimize this risk, but it remains a serious risk, especially to some of the primary teeth in your bite.

Scarring- Dahlias sometimes leave cute perfect dimples- but they also sometimes leave severe, large, and obvious scars. Discolored or hyper-pigmented scars are also not uncommon from dahlia piercings, and due to their movement in the corners of the mouth, the scars are often raised and quite prominent. Surgery is sometimes the only option to correct these scars.

Migration and Rejection- Because of their close proximity to the edges of the lip, dahlias do risk migration and rejection more than most other oral piercings. If allowed to migrate or fully reject, the scarring left behind is severe. This risk is generally minimized with proper placement and proper-sized jewelry, but still not 0.

These risks are all real, and all genuine concerns to be aware of if these are piercings you are considering. You should not sign up for these piercings if you aren’t 100% confident you can handle it if any of these things happen to you.

My hope is this blog post can help prepare you for the realities of getting these cute but temperamental and high-risk piercings. These are advanced piercings that should only be done on a client who truly understands and has consented to the risks involved with this placement.

2,469 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page