All About Oral Piercings

attractive woman with lip piercing

Body piercings are not exactly a new trend. In fact, the oldest mummified body found to date, a 5,300-year-old dubbed Ötzi the Iceman, was found impeccably preserved in a glacier, still wearing earrings! Oral piercings, on the other hand, are generally thought to be a much more recent trend, surging in popularity among young people in the early 2000s, but they too have a deep-seated history. Tongue piercings, for example, were used by the ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures to honor the gods, while lip piercings have been used for centuries in African tribes, and have also been seen in art from Pre-Columbian South American cultures.

Today, lip and tongue piercings are still very popular among teens and young adults, but unsurprisingly, many who wear these adornments don’t know the proper way to clean their jewelry or the piercing itself, nor do they understand the dangers of wearing this type of jewelry. Here are some things to keep in mind if you decide to get an oral piercing.

Cleaning Your Piercings

  • For barbell tongue rings, it is recommended that once the piercing itself has healed, you should remove the jewelry at least once a day and clean it with a toothbrush. You can even soak the jewelry for a few minutes in mouthwash, or if you are changing out the ring with another, soak the recently removed ring overnight in a denture soak. While the ring is out of your mouth, use that opportunity to brush your teeth, floss, and rinse with mouthwash. This will not only clean your teeth but clean the piercing itself.
  • For lip piercings, it is recommended that you keep your mouth clean by rinsing with alcohol-free mouthwash or warm salt water solution.  Do not use mouthwashes that contain alcohol or antibacterial agents, as they can irritate your piercing and damage the tissue around your piercing. For lip jewelry, it is recommended that you leave them in your mouth for up to 10 months following the initial piercing to keep the piercing open. Because of this, cleaning may be difficult, so make sure you don’t skip a day of rinsing.


As with any type of piercing, oral piercings are not without risk. Any piercing can become infected if not cleaned properly in the first few weeks, so be sure to follow the aftercare instructions provided by the piercing studio. Some of the risks associated with oral piercings include:

  • Elevated risk of Hepatitis B and C, and the Herpes Simplex virus
  • Permanent numbness of the pierced area
  • Temporary or permanent speech impediment
  • Altered sense of taste
  • Excessive saliva and drooling
  • Endocarditis, a serious and potentially fatal bacterial infection that may cause inflammation of the heart or heart valves
  • Broken or chipped teeth, fillings, or crowns
  • Gum disease
  • Jewelry aspiration
  • Receding gums

It is also recommended that you remove oral jewelry prior to playing sports and before your dental cleaning or exam. You will also be asked to remove it before any type of surgical procedure, even if the procedure is not oral surgery.

If you do choose to get, an oral piercing be sure to choose a reputable piercing artist at a clean facility. Make sure the person doing your piercing has a valid state license posted at the facility, and that they are using gloves, a sterilized piercing gun, and new single-use needles.

If you have any questions about the proper care of your new piercings, or if you are concerned that your piercing may be injuring your mouth, please call Dr. George’s office at 724-934-3422.

Dr. Alexandra S. George

Medically reviewed by Dr. Alexandra S. George - D.D.S., L.Vl.I.F. on June 26th, 2017