Mouth tattoos refer to any tattoo inside the mouth or on the lips. This can be either on the palate (roof of the mouth) or cheek, however, the most popular place is the inside of the bottom lip.

Some people also have lip tattoos around the edge of the mouth as a way of having permanent ‘lip liner’. This would also be classed as a mouth tattoo.

Health advice on mouth tattoos

Because of the potential harm to your health, mouth tattoos are never recommended.

Any tattoo comes with risks, however, mouth tattoos come with added dangers. Unlike tattoos on the outside of the skin, mouth tattoos are placed on soft tissue. This makes it extremely difficult to cover, protect and keep clean.   

The mouth is constantly exposed to foreign substances – like food and drinks, as well as any anything else you might put in the mouth. This means the open wound, caused as a result of the tattoo, is more prone to damage and infection.

Mouth tattoos and infection

Any trauma to your mouth leaves you more vulnerable to infection, especially if you miss vital steps in your oral health routine, like twice daily brushing and cleaning interdentally.

A tattoo inside your mouth can also put you at a higher risk for infection, as the bacteria has two ways of entering your system – through the site of the tattoo and via your throat.

If you do decide to have a mouth tattoo, it is important to use a mouthwash after having food to get rid of any lingering bacteria and help to minimise any infection.

At the first sign of an infection, you should speak to a GP or dentist for medical advice. This might include:

  • A bitter taste in the mouth.

  • Fever.

  • Swelling of the gum, glands of the neck, or jaw.

Touch-ups are also not recommended for tattoos inside the mouth because this increases your infection risk.

Buyer beware

If you do want a mouth tattoo despite the risks, visit a licenced and experienced tattoo artist. Mouth tattoos can be extremely difficult to apply due to hard-to-reach areas and that it is being drawn directly on to soft tissue.

Despite this, two-in-five people do not check the qualifications of a tattooist before making an appointment.

There are great risks associated with unregistered or unlicensed tattooists. Anyone can purchase specialist equipment online to carry out tattooing or piercings without the necessary training or qualifications in how to use them. These could put your mouth and smile in danger.

Your local council will provide a list of registered tattooists in your area. If your local tattoo parlour is not on the list, it is a warning sign to stay away.

Keeping yourself safe

If you still want to go through with a mouth tattoo, these are a few things you can do to minimise risks to your oral health.

Avoid acidic foods

Things like tomatoes, vinegar and citrus fruits may irritate the mouth and cause a delay in healing as well as pain.

Look out for scar tissue

You may develop some scar tissue after your tattoo heals. Scar tissue can both make it harder to clean your mouth and it can also make it harder to detect the early signs of mouth cancer. These are both things you need to be aware of if you do decide to get a mouth tattoo.

Be vigilant

Stick to a strict oral health routine of brushing twice a day for a full two minutes, and cleaning in between your teeth interdentally every day. Use mouthwash regularly and clean all surfaces in the mouth to make sure you are doing everything possible to keep infection risks low.

These things will all help minimise the risk of infection if you do get a mouth tattoo, but the safest thing you can do is avoid mouth tattoos altogether.

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