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Oral Piercings in Adolescents

AMBULATORY CARE:

An oral piercing

is a hole made in the lip, tongue, or cheek so jewelry can be added. Jewelry includes a stud, ring, or barbell. More than one piercing can be made in a single area. The tongue is the most common location for an oral piercing. Oral piercings are considered a form of body art. An adolescent may consider a piercing a form of personal expression.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has signs of an allergic reaction, such as hives, itching, and swelling.
  • Your child has trouble breathing from swelling in his or her mouth or throat.
  • Your child swallowed or inhaled any part of his or her jewelry.
  • Your child's jewelry is pulled out by accident and the area around the piercing is damaged.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has any signs of an infection.
  • You see a scar or thickening of skin start to form near the piercing site.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

How to talk to your child about oral piercings:

  • Try to be supportive and listen. You may not understand your child's desire to get an oral piercing. Try to give your child an opportunity to explain why he or she wants an oral piercing. This may be a way for your child to express a sense of self or to fit in with friends. Your child may be more open to your views if you stay supportive about why he or she wants the piercing.
  • Talk to your child openly about your views on piercings. You may worry about the health risks. You may be concerned that an oral piercing will keep your child from getting a job. Talk through the risks and need for care. This can help your child make a responsible decision.
  • Your consent may be needed. This will depend on where your child lives and how old he or she is. Your child may need to have signed permission from a parent or legal guardian. The parent or guardian may need to be physically present during the piercing.

How oral piercing is done:

Talk with your child about the following types of oral piercings. Some are always visible, but others can be hidden when needed. Try to have an open discussion with your child about the types and number of piercings you feel comfortable with.

  • Tongue piercing can be done in 2 ways. The most common is to pierce the tongue from top to bottom. A less common type is from one side of the tongue to the other. This type can cause heavy bleeding and is not usually done. A barbell is commonly used for this type of piercing. The bar goes through the tongue and is secured with a metal ball at the top and the bottom.
  • Lip piercing is most commonly done in the corners, but any part of the lip can be pierced. A stud, ring, or barbell can be used for this type of piercing.
  • Cheek piercing is usually done where the dimples of the cheek form. A needle is pushed through the cheek to make the piercing. Studs are most commonly used for cheek piercings.

Risks of oral piercings:

  • Chipped or broken teeth, especially from tongue piercings
  • Torn or ripped skin or tissue from jewelry being pulled out by force
  • Jewelry that gets embedded (stuck) in the skin and has to be removed by surgery
  • Swallowed jewelry
  • Drooling, or having more saliva than usual
  • Problems speaking, chewing, breathing, or swallowing
  • Scars called keloids that need to be removed
  • An allergic reaction to the metal in the jewelry
  • An infection that leads to a serious infection in your child's heart or brain

What you and your child need to know about oral piercing safety:

Remind your child that he or she will be responsible for daily care of the piercing. An oral piercing can cause serious health problems if not cared for properly. Help your child understand all directions that come with the jewelry. The following can help make your child's oral piercing as safe as possible:

  • Make sure the facility is clean before your child gets an oral piercing. Watch the person who will do your child's piercing. Make sure he or she uses an antibacterial soap to wash his or her hands before doing all piercings. A new pair of medical gloves need to be used for each new person who will get a piercing. The instruments need to be sterilized or thrown away after each use.
  • Choose the right jewelry. Choose stainless steel or gold to help prevent an allergic reaction. Nickel tends to cause an allergic reaction and should be avoided. Only use new jewelry. Do not use jewelry someone else already wore. The jewelry also needs to be the right size for your child. It may damage or stretch your child's skin if it is too small or too big. Ask if the jewelry will be easy to remove quickly if your child has an injury. Your child may also need to remove it before an x-ray or MRI and then put it back in.
  • Clean the area around the piercing as directed. Have your child use a mouth rinse that does not contain alcohol. Your child needs to brush and floss his or her teeth 2 times each day. This will remove anything between his or her teeth that can get into the piercing and cause an infection.
  • Clean the jewelry as directed. Your child may be directed to brush the jewelry with a toothbrush during each mouth cleaning. Your child's jewelry should come with care instructions. It is important to follow the instructions to prevent an infection.
  • Check the area around the piercing for signs of infection. Pain and fever are signs of infection. Look for skin that is red, swollen, or has changed color. Also look for bleeding or foul-smelling discharge. Your child's skin also may be tender to the touch. Check the area every day for signs of infection.
  • Remove the jewelry as directed. Your child may need to remove the jewelry before he or she eats and sleeps. Your child may be given a plug to place in the hole until he or she can put the jewelry back in. Your child should also remove the jewelry before he or she plays sports. Some jewelry may be ripped out during sports. Your child is also at a higher risk for clicking the jewelry against his or her teeth. The biggest risk is contact sports, such as football.
  • Your child needs regular dental checkups. Your child's dentist can check your child's teeth for problems caused by the jewelry. Examples include chips, cracks, or breaks in teeth, gum recession, tissue damage, and infections. Have your child's teeth examined and professionally cleaned 2 times each year, or as directed.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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