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Smilie Piercings 101

Updated: Nov 15, 2021

Today let’s talk about smilie piercings! These piercings grew in popularity thanks to the internet, and remain popular through social media. This is a piercing through the frenulum of the upper lip, the webbing that connects the lip to the gums. These piercings are hidden, and usually only visible when you smile, hence the name. While these piercings are cute, and the appeal is easy to understand, these piercings also carry some serious risks for your teeth and gums. Thanks to these risks I actually no longer offer these piercings. I do not feel that any piercing is worth potentially loosing your teeth and gums.

Proper Anatomy is Key

There are two major anatomical factors for a smilie piercing. The first, and easiest, is having enough webbing to pierce through. This is fortunately fairly common knowledge- there needs to be enough tissue for us to pierce! If this isn’t you are just piercing up into someones actual lip, and that is never going to heal. Fortunately this is well known and many clients can easily check themselves, and most clients come in with a good idea of if they have enough tissue for this piercing.

Lesser known, but often more important, is the angle of your teeth, sometimes called your bite. If your front teeth come down perfectly straight, that’s ideal. But if they come down angled inward or angled outward, the jewelry for this piercing is going to press and rub along your teeth and gums, which will cause damage. It’s just as important to ensure you have the correct tooth and bite anatomy as it is to ensure you have enough webbing. Even if a client has enough webbing to pierce, it is unethical to do this piercing if the angle of their teeth will cause tooth and gum damage. If you already have gum erosion on your front teeth, I also do not suggest getting this piercing as it will further the damage already there. And this damage is well documented by dentists and dental techs. Part of the bad reputation this piercing gets is from piercers who will do this on any client with enough webbing, regardless of their teeth and gum anatomy.

Personally, I prefer no one get these piercings given the very serious risks to your teeth and gums, but if you still choose to I hope this helps you stay as safe as realistically possible.

Gum erosion from a 4-5 year old smilie. You can see where the gums have pulled away from the teeth and where the ring has abraded the gums down.

Tooth and Gum Damage are Real Risks

Even in an ideal situation with anatomy, wearing jewelry that contacts your teeth and gums 24/7 does carry real risks of tooth and gum damage. If gum erosion starts, it can’t be reversed. And enamel loss is the same. Even if you have perfect anatomy for this piercing, you still should accept the reality of damage. It's not about if it happens, its about when. I've seen folks get severe damage in just weeks or months, and Ive seen damage occur after years and years of having this. I unfortunately have seen clients who had permanent gum loss, needed gum grafts, and even lost their front two teeth. I've had colleagues with clients who have worn cracks into their teeth, or the piercing tore and split their webbing and effected their entire bite. As cute as the piercing may be, it's simply just cuter to have teeth in your mouth. Beyond that dental work is expensive and often painful, and this type of dental damage can cost thousands to try to recover from.

Plaque buildup and eroded gums from a few month old smilie

Jewelry Styles can Minimize Risk

Online you see photos of this piercing wearing circular barbells, sometimes called horseshoes, all the time, Which is a shame, because this is often a less ideal style for these piercings. Any jewelry with a bead or a raised portion that puts uneven pressure on your teeth and gums will risk causing more damage to your teeth and gums. I suggest seam rings, clickers, and other flat styles, or fixed bead rings made with the bead having a flat back and being fixed even to the ring itself if you are insistent on having this piercing. You may need to wear a style with a bead for healing, but once healed, swap to something safer long term.

Smilie piercings carry a much higher risk then other oral piercings due to their direct contact with teeth and gums, and their anatomy restrictions. You only get one set of teeth and they are expensive and uncomfortable to fix if you damage them. This piercing should not be gotten lightly, and if you do get it you should be very responsible with your oral health and hygiene, and be mentally and financially prepared to loose teeth and gums.

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