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Oral Piercings and Tooth & Gum Damage

Oral piercings are super cute! From lip piercings to tongue piercings, these are a staple in body piercings and make such an awesome fashion statement. From bold hoops to delicate studs, there’s something for everyone. That said, oral piercings carry an extra level of concern- all oral piercings carry the risk of tooth and gum damage. That being said, there are things you can do to minimize that damage, so let’s look at the risks, and precautions, with oral piercings.

Good Oral Hygiene Matters

It doesn’t matter what other steps you take, if you aren’t taking good care of your teeth and gums, oral piercings will only further the risks of you having issues. You should be brushing 3 times a day, flossing daily, and rinsing. Using products suggested by your dentist are important, but remember with healing oral piercings not to use products that contain whitening chemicals. Electric toothbrushes are the new standard, and they absolutely help make sure you are getting all that plaque and buildup off of your jewelry. Yes- you should brush and clean your jewelry along with your actual teeth. I also strongly suggest getting a tongue scrubber to specifically keep your tongue clean. Beyond that, if you wear oral piercings you should see your dentist regularly for cleanings, and to have them check your teeth and gums for any damage. Unfortunately many dentists and hygienists are biased about body piercings, so often clients with piercings need to self advocate. Finding a good dentist who will be respectful of your modifications but also honest about your tooth health is the ideal.

Properly Fitted Jewelry is Key

No matter what piercing we discuss, having jewelry that is a good snug fit is essential. Extra length on jewelry can lead to you accidentally biting it or catching it on your teeth and causing damage. There is no replacement for jewelry that fits right, and this should be sized and fitted in person with a reputable piercer. A proper fit can greatly reduce the risks of oral damage, but it doesn’t eliminate them. Even with a good fit jewelry can still rub on teeth and gums, so make sure you accept that risk when you decide to get these piercings.

Fidget Fails

One of the main reasons I see clients with chipped teeth or damage is playing with their jewelry. Biting on lip rings, clicking tongue rings against their teeth, etc. I know its so tempting to fidget or fuss with your jewelry. But please, resist the urge! Playing with oral jewelry is a recipe to damage a tooth or snag your gums. It’s not worth it. Properly fitted jewelry helps reduce the risk of this, but a good portion is also self control- don’t let yourself play with and fuss with it to begin with.

These tips are key for all oral piercings, but let’s look as some specific concerns and suggestions for each piercing.

Labret Piercings

With labret piercings, some of the main concerns are rubbing along the gum line of your lower teeth, and playing with/biting the jewelry. With studs, a great way to avoid this is by getting jewelry to ‘nest’. Nesting is a common term for jewelry in oral pierce rings forming a small pocket in the tissue of the lip and “nesting” into it. Nesting can be totally safe and pain free, as long as the jewelry moves easily in and out of that pocket without discomfort. However, we want to avoid jewelry fully embedding. Many clients will have nesting form naturally, without having to try. With wearing hoops, making sure they are a proper fit without excess room to rub or snag helps a ton. I also find smoother hoops such as clickers or seam rings fair better than captive bead rings, where the beads are tempting to rotate inward and fidget with.

Philtrum/Monroe Piercings

Much like labrets, the concerns here are biting the jewelry, and it rubbing on the gums. Likewise, nest pockets are very good to help prevent rubbing, and seem to form just as easily on upper lip piercings. With rings in these piercings they can be worn, but they absolutely need to be fitted by a professional and a close eye should be kept on them to monitor for irritation and damage to your teeth and gums. Rings in these piercings often carry a higher risk than lower lip piercings.

Dahlia Piercings

Dahalia's are a cross between a labret and a cheek piercing. Slightly easier than a cheek, but slightly harder than a labret. These piercings wear studs, and hoops in these piercings are a bad idea. The movement from talking means hoops need space to accommodate, and you are just asking for it to rub and irritate your teeth and gums. That said, finding comfortable backings for these pieces can be a challenge. Don’t be scared to experiment- discs, beads, M&M beads, hell I’ve even put cabochon opals on the inside of these piercings because its comfortable for that client. Definitely experiment and find what’s comfortable for you. Be mindful of the fit on your posts and ensure it’s proper even long after these have healed, since many different factors can cause fit to flux here.

Cheek Piercings

Cheeks suck. Just going to warn you now. It’s a goddamn nightmare. Over the lifetime of wearing these piercings their fit will change with weight gain, weight loss, moving to new climates, lifestyle, etc. Be ready to spend a lot of money on different posts, backs, and to try all the weird and wild things to find a good fit. For many years I wore a bead on one side and a 6mm cabochon opal on the other because that’s what was comfortable and didn’t bother my teeth and gums. Then I lost weight and now its one small bead and one gigantic bead- I couldn’t tell you why, but that’s what bugs my teeth the least. Cheeks are just about experimenting and working back and forth till you find what works best for you at that time. Keeping a piercer you trust nearby, and be able to pop in whenever needed is crucial for these piercings.

Tongue Piercings

Tongue piercings are usually fairly easy to avoid damage with, as long as jewelry is fitted well, the piercing is well placed, and you resist playing with it. That said tongue jewelry, particularly the lower bead, is notorious for building up plaque. This seems obvious but its’ not- brush the bottom of your tongue, please. It’s just as important as the top. For really stubborn buildup a water pik works wonders to keep things clean and get buildup off. It’s also just good for your teeth as well.

Smilie Piercings

In general I try to talk clients out of these piercings, just because they have such a higher rate of migration, rejection, and oral damage than many other oral piercings. Every time you talk and eat these are moving around, often much more so then lip or tongue piercings. But if you are absolutely adamant on this questionable choice, wearing simple jewelry once healed is a great way to minimize damage. No horseshoes, no captive bead rings. Seam rings, clickers, or decorative rings where the portion touching your teeth is smooth all the way around. With rings with beads the bead creates a spot of uneven pressure that can rub more against the gumline. While these styles are common for healing, swap to something smoother once healed to help protect your teeth and gums. Likewise I don’t like curved barbells for this piercing.

Tongue Frenlum Piercings

Like Smilies, I really really try to talk clients out of these piercings. Not only are they also prone to migration and rejection, but these piercings are virtually impossible to keep plaque off of, and clients regularly complain of excessive plaque build-up, which can lead to oral health issues and bad breath. If you are insisting on this good oral hyena is essential, as are regular cleanings with your piercer or dentist if you struggle to keep up with it on your own.

Inverse Vertical Labret Piercings

Sometimes known as Ashley piercings, these piercings are not dissimilar to labrets, although a bit more advanced to get pierced and to heal. These wear discs on the inside, but can also wear MnM beads as well. Because they sit a bit higher on the lip resisting the desire to fidget is so important. Nesting helps with that heaps, and also makes them more comfortable. Experiment with different types of backing for what causes the least rubbing or irritation for you. And don’t forget to brush and clean the jewelry, folks often skip this one because it’s on their lip- but it needs cleaning and love too!

Vertical Labrets and Vertical Philtrums

These babies are cheating in the best way! Because they pass vertically through the lip they don’t actually touch your teeth or gums at all! Still keep things clean from food and debris, but you don’t have to worry about tooth or gum issues at all! If you are super worried about damage, get a vertical piercing and avoid all the worry!

Oral piercings are awesome, but you should be aware that there are real risks of tooth and gum damage. These risks are things you can help mitigate, but never fully avoid. Keep that in mind when choosing to get oral piercings, and make sure you understand the risks and stay on top of keeping your piercings healthy and clean. And see your dentist regularly!

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1 Comment

Maddie Lee
Maddie Lee
Feb 27, 2021

Great post! Can I ask why you don't recommend curved barbells in smileys? I have one in mine because I like its discreetness and thought that it would be safer since it doesn't really touch my teeth, but I am interested to know why a ring would be better, since I assumed it would be more prone to tugging.

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