Labret Piercing 101
Labret piercings! This term applies to any piercing through the lower lip into the mouth. Not to be confused with vertical labrets or inverse vertical labrets (which will be coming up next!). When many folks hear labret they think of a single piercing in the center under the lower lip. But this term also applies to any setup of lower lip piercings. Like any other piercing, these are anatomy dependant and there are a few things to consider before getting pierced. Let’s take a look!
A note on terminology
Before we start I’d like to address two things. First, pronunciation. Labret is said Lay-BRET rather then lah-bray. That’s because it comes from a Latin word for labrum- the area between the lower lip and the chin where this piercing sits. There is often heated debate over pronunciation online, but the root word is what matters here. Second- slang terms. Many folks refer to pairs of labrets as different names- snake bites, spider bites, cyber bytes, etc. I have a whole blog about slang terms here, but in short these terms can be inaccurate and confusing for piercers. A pair of labrets is just that- a pair of labrets, regardless of the exact placement and pattern. These slang terms can mean different things regionally which can lend to confusion and miscommunication.For example, snake bites can be a pair of lower lip piercings, but some people also use it to refer to a type of tongue piercing. For the best communication referring to the anatomy and the piercing is always best- aka paired labrets. When in doubt, have a photo handy!
Like many other piercings labret piercings are anatomy dependent. That said, proper anatomy for these is incredibly common. However, just because you have the anatomy to get one doesn’t always mean the placement will be what you want. With any oral piercing its important to place things in a way that minimizes damage to teeth and gums. For labrets, this means if there’s existing gum erosion or damage we may need to adjust placement to account for that. Tooth gaps and snaggle teeth can also be a consideration to prevent chipped teeth.
Good oral hygiene is key, so if you are considering a labret piercing or any oral piercing, make sure you already have a good hygiene routine. Brushing, flossing, and rinsing daily, and seeing dentist for regular cleanings and checkups. Oral piercings do increase the risk of oral damage, so to have these safely takes some personal responsibility. That said, its totally possible to have oral piercings and not have any tooth or gum damage! Seeing a reputable piercer who places things properly for your anatomy, wearing appropriately fitted jewelry, not playing with the piercing or biting at it, and keeping up oral hygiene will lead to happy healthy piercings, teeth, and gums.
Most piercings experience a little swelling after they are initially pierced. Oral piercings in particular are know for having a large amount of swelling when first done. They are prone to swelling enough that I jokingly call this a trial run for lip injections. If you’ve ever wondered- you’ll know after this. Because of that, these piercings need to be started with a longer barbell initially to have room for all that swelling. Once the swelling subsides, you can downsize your post, often only a few weeks after initial piercing. It’s very important to downsize these soon do the long bar doesn't snag or chip your teeth and cause damage. You can learn more about oral piercings healing and healing myths here.
This is also why starting these with hoops is not ideal- hoops often don’t have enough room for swelling. If they did, they would have to be so massive it would irritate your teeth and gums and possibly cause permanent damage. Often when these are started with hoops they are too small for swelling and can migrate through the lips causing the angles to shift. For this reason even if hoops are your goal it is much easier and safer to start these with studs, allow them to heal, and get fitted safe hoops once they are fully healed! Labrets often heal in only 3-5 months so it’s not a long wait before you get your cute hoops. And your teeth and gums will appreciate it!
Once healed, labrets can wear a large range of jewelry choices. Hoops and studs enjoy equal popularity in this placement. Hoops need to be correctly sized, and hoops that are too large will rub on your teeth and gums and cause oral health issues. Hoops that are too small can migrate through the lip and leave devastating scarring. For this reason it's very important to be fitted by a piercer for these to ensure the jewelry is the correct size for your lips and mouth.
When it comes to studs, theres no end of jewelry choices. From small delicate pieces to large statement pieces, labrets can rock almost anything. With suds its important to have a slightly larger backing to prevent things from sinking into the lip. Nesting, however, is a common phenomenon for oral piercings and you can learn about that here. Larger studs can also be worn and often give the effect of a stretched labret piercing without the oral health risks that can come along with stretching. Pieces that are too small do run the risk of being pulled through the lip so your piercer should warn you about that.
Regardless if you chose hoops or studs, you'll want to avoid playing with the jewelry. Biting, clicking, or rubbing the jewelry on your teeth can all damage your teeth and gums. Regularly pulling or sucking on jewelry can cause it to sink into and even pull through the lip. I know oral fixations can be hard to beat but try your best! Your teeth are important and resisting playing with oral piercings is key to their healing.
Labret piercings are a classic look, and from big talons and spikes to the most delicate gold rings, they work for a range of fashion choices, lifestyles, and preferences. While like all oral piercings they cary some risk of tooth and gum damage that risk can be largely minimized with a good piercer, good jewelry, and good quality care. If you’ve been considering a labret piercing or a pair of labrets, I say go for it!