Archive for Oral Piercings

oral piercings and tooth care

Today is National Tooth Fairy Day, and that means it’s time to talk about something that effects the modified in a pretty unique way: oral care.

For those who have piercings of the tongue, lips, or connective tissues inside the mouth, taking care of our teeth takes on even more importance than normal, and this is the perfect moment for an aftercare brush-up.  But first, let’s take a second real quick to go over the common piercings that can effect our teeth and gums.  Here’s what we’re looking at:

 main types of oral piercing

There are many different and unique oral piercings, but these few main types encompass the vast majority of styles.  The standard tongue piercing can be performed in multiples and different places, and lip frenulum piercings like the smiley are often done in the bottom lip too, as well as the connective tissues that rest above the canines (usually called a “vampire” piercing).

For those who have gingivitis, multiple fillings, or other oral health issues, it’s especially prudent to follow your piercer’s aftercare instructions after getting one of these piercings.  Some professionals will suggest switching to non-metallic, biocompatible materials like bioplast to avoid certain issues, and most will recommend consistent use of alcohol free and/or specially formulated mouthwashes, particularly after eating.  Other instructions that are commonly given during healing include avoidance of alcohol, smoking, lip gloss usage, and highly-acidic foods.

 pre-mixed specially formulated aftercare

It’s always best to find an experienced piercer who has performed the piercing you want to get many times successfully, as certain piercings need to be placed in a particular spot to avoid the possibility of tooth or gum issues.  For more about oral piercings, check out our Oral Piercings Category, and don’t forget to thank your friendly neighborhood tooth fairy today!

tongue barbell sizing and styles

For the most part tongue rings come in one standard type, a straight barbell with a decoration on one end and a ball or half ball on the other.  There’s definitely more to picking out a new tongue ring though, so here’s what you’ll need to know:

We’ll start with gauge, which is the girth or thickness of the piece.  Most regular tongue piercings are performed in a 14 gauge, which means that the barbell portion is 1.6 millimeters in diameter.  Some however, may choose to be pierced in a slightly larger 12 gauge, or may stretch their tongue piercing to accommodate even larger jewelry.  For the purposes of fit, you’ll always want to know exactly what gauge your particular piercing is, as anything too large won’t fit and anything too small will be awkward and uncomfortable.

 straight barbell gauge sizing

Next you’ll want to know what length you need.  This again is subject to variation given the potential differences in individual anatomy, but for the most part you’ll find that the standard 5/8″ (16mm) length is most common.  Length is measured as the distance from the base of one ball or ending to the other along the barbell.

 standard barbell tongue ring measurements

Another thing you’ll need to think about is the size of the decoration.  Many tongue rings are simply outfitted with two balls, one or both of them baring a logo, glitter, or a fun design.  There are items with a wide variety of other decorative elements though, and these can vary in size greatly.  Some common tips include dice, whistles, hoops, gems, hearts, 3D renderings of animals, letters, crosses, and vibrating capsules.

 types of decorative barbell tongue rings

The last thing you’ll want to consider is the materials.  Tongue rings can be made using acrylic, silicone, Austrian crystal, surgical steel, titanium, 14kt gold, bioplast, and a variety of other mediums.  Just as with piercings of the skin, allergies, weight, and preferential factors should all be taken into account, along with considerations for proper oral health.  If you know that you tend to play with your tongue rings a lot and regularly feel them making contact with your teeth, sticking with non-metallic materials is a good way to prevent any accidental tooth damage.  Also remember to check the security if your body jewelry balls at regular intervals to keep them from becoming a choking hazzard.

For more about jewelry and sizing, check out our Jewelry Sizing Category, and always buy smart.

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names and locations of oral piercings

Tongue: the standard tongue piercing is fairly well known and consist of a single piercing vertically through the center of the tongue.  Because of its location, this piercing is worn with a barbell, sometimes containing a “half ball” on one or both ends to allow for a more comfortable fit.

Multi Tongue: the standard tongue piercing can be done in multiples of up to three or even five, and the piercings can be made in a variety of shapes including a line lengthwise, a shorter horizontal line, a small circle, or a triangle.

Snake Eyes: the snake eyes piercing, also known as a venom piercing, is a horizontal piercing through the tip of the tongue.  Occasionally this piercing may be attempted slightly further back as a surface style piercing, but for the most part it’s seen through the tongue’s tip worn with a straight or curved barbell.

Tongue Web: the part of the tongue that we call the “web” is actually the frenulum linguae, and as such this type of piercing may be referred alternatively as a “tongue frenulum piercing.”  Most use a small curved barbell or a circular barbell of some type, as these are a better fit for the anatomy of the area.

Smiley: this fun, somewhat secretive piercing is hidden for the most part until the mouth opens to laugh or smile.  It is actually pierced through the center upper lip frenulum (the strip of flesh connecting the upper lip to the gum plate).  Regionally this type of piercing may also be called a “scrumper.”

Frowney: the frowney piercing is essentially the opposite to the smiley, being pierced through the lower lip frenulum, and even harder to spot when worn with the right size jewelry.

Gum: although very rare, piercings of the actual gums have been performed, both as a standard piercing through the soft part of the gums, and as a dermal with an anchor placed inside.  These piercings are usually temporary in nature, due to the constant movement of the mouth, and are most often placed where the gums dip between the upper surfaces of two adjacent teeth.

Uvula: though it may come as a surprise, the uvula has actually been pierced in many different ways.  Most piercers who are willing to attempt this piercing will sit with their client prior to the actual procedure and do several dry runs to be sure both they and the client are comfortable.

Vampire: sometimes also called a canine piercing or upper frenulum piercing, the vampire is pierced through the thin strip of flesh that connects the gums to the upper lip just above the canine area.  Vampire piercings can be done on one or both sides and are primarily worn with circular barbells.

Dental: the dental piercing is less of a piercing and more of a dental implant.  Rarely, the tooth can be drilled completely through and a small piece of jewelry dangled from the hole (much like a pierced decorative fingernail), but usually the tooth is drilled just enough to bond in a gem, or a veneer already containing a decoration is used.

tongue piercing facts

The Question: Can a tongue piercing really close up if you leave jewelry out of it for just a few days?

The Answer: Actually, yes.  There are any number of factors that contribute to how quickly or slowly a piercing will “close.”  If you ask your piercer, they’ll likely warn you that how long you’ve had the piercing, how healthy it is currently, and even just your individual anatomy can all play a role.  Even though completely healing shut within a short period of time is unlikely, it’s entirely possible for the piercing to close off enough to make reinserting jewelry problematic, so your best bet is to keep a clear retainer handy as a back up, just in case.

the truth about reinserting jewelry

The Question: Can a tongue piercing really kill you if it was done in the wrong spot?

The Answer: Not really.  Tongue piercings that were performed improperly (not by a trained and licensed professional) can cause pain, infection, and even scarring, but they won’t kill you.  The only recorded and confirmed case of a death resulting from tongue piercing occurred in the UK, and it had nothing to do with the piercer.  The unfortunate victim chose to get a tongue piercing during an unchecked throat infection and the bacteria accidentally entered her bloodstream through the newly opened wound, causing her eventual fatality.  Moral of this story: even if it seems irrelevant or embarrassing, your piercer requires full disclosure in order to keep you safe.

The Question: Can a poorly executed tongue piercing cause a permanent speech impediment?

The Answer: Technically, no.  Although rare occurrences of distorted speech from poor tongue ring placement have been documented, after removing the jewelry and allowing the offending piercing to heal, the speech returns to normal.  During the first few days after a routine tongue piercing, saying certain things may be difficult due to swelling, but this is entirely normal and goes away quickly.

To see a tongue piercing and loads of other piercings happen in real time up close and personal, be sure to check out our awesome YouTube channel.

snake eyes tongue surface piercing

Have you ever heard the expression “It’s just right on the tip of my tongue”? The very unique snake eyes piercing is just that. Not to be confused with snake bites, which are a pair of lip piercings, located on the left and right sides of your lower lip. Snake eyes is a surface piercing, located horizontally on the tip of your tongue. It gives the appearance of two piercings. Often snake eyes are pierced with a small barbell or curved barbell, sometimes called a scoop piercing. The balls of the barbell sit on the top and resemble the eyes of a snake, hence its name, “snake eyes”. Snake eyes is also a reference to dice; when you roll a pair of ones it is called snake eyes.

Your professional piercer will first check your tongue to ensure that it is able to be pierced; unfortunately sometimes anatomy will make it unsafe to perform this piercing. Safety and health are always more important than fashion. Some piercers will not perform this type of tongue piercing at all due to the chance of dental, gum, and speech damage. After they decide it’s okay to pierce the area, your piercer will blot the tongue with a blotting tissue to soak up excess saliva. Then they will use a marking pen to mark the points of entrance and exit and check the jewelry length to make sure there is a proper fit. A pair of forceps will be used to clamp the tip of your tongue. They are placed so that the clamps are holding together either side of the tip. This is important because it pushes your tongue together to aid in piercing it and helps to avoid the major veins in that area. A 14 or 16 gauge hollow needle is then inserted through your tongue’s tip.

The new piercing is immediately chased with a 14 or 16 gauge barbell/ curved barbell, generally 5/8 length or longer depending on your anatomy.  The jewelry is inserted through the blunt end of the needle and the needle is pushed out.  Then the balls are secured. Initial jewelry is always longer to leave room for swelling. This piercing looks great when the jewelry has small (3mm or smaller) gems on the balls, anything bigger would be too clunky for that location on the tongue. Proper jewelry will ensure better healing and less obstruction to your speech. It is said that this piercing is fairly painless, with just a small amount of pressure and a sharp pinch, nothing more than the pain of biting your tongue. The sensation feels a lot like a traditional tongue piercing. It is, however, a surface piercing, which means it is more prone to rejection and migration.

14 and 16 gauge replacement balls

Proper aftercare is very important to the healing process of any piercing. Be sure to follow your piercer’s aftercare instructions closely. Due to the placement of this piercing it is more likely to catch on your teeth or on food as it heals. Eating soft food or blended food that is not acidic for the first few days can help with the discomfort. Avoiding alcohol is also a good idea, as alcohol dehydrates the body and can exacerbate swelling. Drinking plenty of water and using an alcohol free mouth wash, such as H2Ocean mouth rinse for piercing aftercare, is very important. The H2Ocean is awesome because it contains sea salt and natural enzymes to help cleanse and protect your piercing and prevent mouth infections. It takes about a week for you to get used to the snake eyes piercing and anywhere from 4-8 weeks for the piercing to heal.

The snake eyes piercing is a newer trend in body piercing fashion. Currently it is very popular on social photo forums such as Tumblr and Pinterest. Snake eyes are not as mainstream as the traditional center tongue piercing, which goes right through the center of the tongue, but the rise in popularity is apparent. This cool piercing gives your tongue an interesting look that is like no other.

girl with tongue piercing

Piercing: Prior to the needle your mouth will be thoroughly cleansed, usually with clear disinfectant or some form of mouthwash.  Then a pair of forceps and a hollow needle will be used to perform the piercing itself.  Depending on the preference of your piercer, the exact spot where the piercing will be placed may or may not be marked with a surgical pen.  Some persons hardly feel any pain during the piercing process and others put it on par with any other piercing in terms of discomfort; it all depends on individual anatomy in relation to piercing placement.

 steps of tongue piercing

Aftercare: Within about 48 hours of being pierced, the tongue will begin to swell, and talking or eating certain foods may be slightly difficult or uncomfortable.  Like most oral piercings, the tongue piercing will heal relatively quickly though.  Cleansings or rinses with saline or special mouthwash are common aftercare practices, and often need to be performed multiple times daily.  Avoidance of smoking, lip gloss, and alcohol consumption are also encouraged.

Jewelry: The vast majority of tongue piercings will be worn with some type of straight barbell, possibly with dangles, hoops, or embellishments.  Some prefer internally threaded barbells for their ease of use, and those with allergies will generally require non-metallic materials like PTFE or bioplast.

 standard surgical steel tongue jewelry

Style Variations: For most individuals the tongue can safely be pierced multiple times, sometimes up to five or six in a row.  There are also horizontal piercings of the tongue (usually close to the tip), and sets of two piercings next to eachother, which is often referred to as “viper bites.”

Wanna see a real live tongue piercing happen?  Then be sure to check out our YouTube page for piercing videos and more.

see Jazman get her tongue pierced

Location: In the strip of tissue that connects the upper lip to the upper gums, called the lip frenulum.

 upper lip frenulum piercing

Alternate Names: Smile, Scrumper, lip frenulum piercing

Piercing: Smileys are performed like most piercings, with a hollow piercing needle, though they may be done with a smaller than average needle in a 16 or even an 18 gauge.  Before being pierced, the inside of your mouth will cleaned, usually with special mouthwash.  Due to the difference in shape and size of the upper lip frenulum, a small number of persons will be unable to get this type of piercing.

Aftercare: Because the upper lip frenulum sees a lot of movement, migration is slightly more common than with other oral piercings.  To prevent migration, rejection, and infection, oral rinses are recommended several times per day, particularly after consumption of certain foods.  It’s also generally helpful to refrain from smoking, overuse of goopy lip products, and to take extra care while brushing your teeth.

 smiley piercing aftercare rinse

Jewelry: Since the area that a smiley is pierced through is rather thin, jewelry should be as lightweight as possible.  This usually includes segment rings or ball captive rings, with as small a diameter as physiologically allowable.  Occasionally, a small curved barbell can be worn.

 segment ring body jewelry

Prevalence: Although women are statistically more likely to be pierced than men, the smiley piercing is entirely unisex, and common primarily amongst those between the ages of 18 and 29.

Thinking of getting a tongue piercing but unsure of whether it’ll fit your lifestyle?  Here’s a few things you should know:

Before Going Under the Needle:

Tongue piercings are done with a hollow piercing needle and a pair of clamps.  Many people say that they hardly felt their piercing being done, but for some the discomfort is on par with regular body piercings; it all depends on the individual tongue.  Regardless of ouch factor, everybody gets a swollen tongue afterwards, which may impair your ability to easily enunciate certain words or eat certain foods for a short period of time.

 getting your tongue pierced

Even though there are tons of rumors flying around the internet about horribly botched tongue piercings, most of them are entirely based on hearsay.  For example, there’s no record of a tongue piercing EVER killing a normal healthy person just because it was done in the wrong spot, and it’s not common for people to never be able to speak properly again either.  For the most part, a tongue piercing is completely safe as long as you go to an experienced and reputable piercer.

After Going Under the Needle:

Because tongue piercings will come in contact with everything that enters the mouth, they need to be cleaned often while healing to prevent infection, and there are a number of oral aftercare rinses available to make cleaning after meals easy.  Also, because the tongue is known to swell after initial piercing, the jewelry you’ll be pierced with is extra long to accommodate, and will need to be changed out later for a barbell of shorter length.

 tongue pierced with long barbell

According to persons with tongue piercings, you’ll definitely be aware that there’s a foreign object in your mouth, especially at first, but resisting the urge to play with your jewelry while the piercing is healing goes a long way towards alleviating any discomfort.  And keep in mind, everyone is different, but even once it’s healed up completely, removing your tongue ring for a while may cause the piercing to begin closing up, which can make it difficult or even impossible to reinsert jewelry later.

Generalisms:

Although it’s seldom discussed out in the open, the piercer is going to be really close to your open mouth, which means that….okay, we’ll just say it!  They might appreciate it if you don’t eat ten slices of garlic bread and then go for a tongue piercing without brushing your teeth!  Seriously though, they are going to have to smell your breath, so being thoughtful enough to make sure it doesn’t wreak will score you major points.

 brushing before tongue piercing

Also, don’t be afraid to ask the piercer questions both before and after getting pierced.  They’re there to help, and are more than happy to give insider aftercare advice.  And no matter what you’re asking, trust us, they’ve probably heard it all.

Fun Facts:

In online polls, persons with pierced tongues agreed that spaghetti pasta was the most difficult food to eat with a new tongue piercing.

girl with pierced tongue eats spaghetti

If you know where your uvula is, you might be astounded to hear that it can actually be pierced, but that’s exactly what a uvula piercing is.  For those who don’t know, the uvula is that dangling extension of tissue at the back of your throat, right in between your tonsils.  Since there are no official names for this piercing other than a few pieces of regional slang common to the US and UK, the piercing itself is normally simply called “uvula piercing.”

Oral Piercing of the Uvula

The uvula piercing is one of the more dangerous piercings a person can get, because of the potential for gag reflexes kicking in during the piercing process.  Due to its sensitive nature, it’s highly recommended that those who get a uvula piercing go to an expert piercer, if possible, one who has done this type of piercing successfully before.  Other suggestions for minimizing risk include practicing how to subdue the gag reflex, and doing several dry runs with piercing clamps in which the piercer will mimic the pressure to the uvula that would be experienced during actual piercing.

The first known uvula piercings were done by piercer Jon Cobb in the mid 1990′s, and since that time a rash of urban legends has come into existence concerning many false risks involved in actually having the uvula pierced.  For the most part, the only major issues concerning health and piercing of the uvula are infection and depending on the person, snoring.  The uvula moves around quite a bit during swallowing actions of the throat, but as a part of the oral/digestive anatomy, it’s commonly removed and holds no major nerves.  Aftercare for uvula piercings may include gargling with salt water, and occasional cleansings with a toothbrush, and the jewelry generally worn is circular barbells and captives.

Ball Captive Rings

If you haven’t heard of uvula piercing or thought it was a hoax, it’s probably due to the many false rumors circulated about it.  It’s mysterious, slightly dangerous, and the subject of countless tall tales, which probably makes it one of the coolest piercings you may have never heard of.

The Marley is an oral piercing of what is called “the tongue web,” or more accurately, the frenulum linguae.  This is the thin strip of tissue underneath the tongue that connects it to the lower gum plate.  Most people can get this piercing fairly simply, however, due to the varying thicknesses and positions of the tissue, a small amount of persons will be unable to get a proper Marley piercing.

The Marley is considered a contemporary piercing because it first began popping up in the 1990′s, although little is known about the piercing’s specific origin or who exactly first applied the name “Marley” or “Marly” to tongue frenulum piercing.  It has been suggested in many circles that the name Marley is a reference to famous and celebrated rasta movement icon and reggae vocalist Bob Marley, and may represent freedom through the spoken word, as without the frenulum linguae, we would be unable to speak.

Ball Captives in Marley Sizes

For the most part, this type of piercing is recognized as having a higher than average rate of rejection, although initial healing is fairly quick at a mere two to ten weeks.  Due to the location and the shape of the frenulum itself, Marleys are usually done in a sixteen or eighteen gauge, and circulars or curved barbells are normally worn.  Although it has a reputation for being somewhat painful, tongue web piercing tends to have little associated issues as long as proper aftercare (consisting primarily of rinses) is followed to the letter.

Oral piercing Aftercare Solutions

If you haven’t heard of the Marley, it’s likely due to its ambiguity.  Though it claims to have been around since at least the mid nineties, tongue web piercing neglected to truly catch on until just the past few years.  And although piercers on the East and West coasts respectively may be aware of its existence or even small levels of popularity, many of those in the Central and Midwestern United States will be able to say that they have performed a Marley piercing less than a handful of times, making it one of the coolest piercings you may have never heard of.