Oral piercings are any piercings that are attached to, or in the mouth. This includes the tongue, lips, and cheeks.

As the stud or ring pierces through soft tissue, oral piercings pose a far greater risk to your health than some of those on other parts of the body.   This is because they are difficult to care for and are more prone to infection.

Oral piercings are not considered safe and are not recommended.

If you are still considering an oral piercing, it is important to lower the risks and help protect the health of your smile. Treatment should take place in a sterilised environment and carried out by registered piercers.

You can ask your local authority for a list of registered piercers as well as safe piercer associations.

The health risks of oral piercings

There are many risks associated with oral piercings. It is important that you are aware of all of these before going through with treatment.

If you are concerned about the possible dangers involved with oral piercings, you should not feel pressured to have one.

Some of the health risks to your smile include:


Piercings in your mouth carry more risk because even a healthy mouth is full of bacteria. Handling jewellery once it has been placed in the mouth also increases the chances of having an infection. It is important to wash your hands before touching any piercings in the mouth.

Prolonged bleeding

If a blood vessel is punctured by the needle during piercing, the mouth can bleed, and it could be difficult to control depending on which blood vessel has been punctured.

Punctures during tongue piercings are likely to cause a lot of bleeding. This is because the tongue gets its blood supply from the lingual artery – a major branch of the carotid artery (the artery that supply blood to the brain, neck, and face).

Bleeding of any kind can be distressing. Stay calm and apply firm and consistent pressure to the cut and tip your head forwards to avoid swallowing any blood. If the blood vessel under your tongue starts bleeding heavily and does not stop, seek medical attention by going to A&E.

Pain and swelling

These are common symptoms of oral piercings. However, in extreme cases, a severely swollen tongue can close off the airway and restrict breathing. If your tongue is swollen and the swelling has not gone down, consult a GP.  If you have any difficulty breathing, go to A&E.

Chipped or cracked teeth

It is easy to crack or chip teeth on piercings and tongue bars especially when they are new as it takes time to get used to something else being permanently in your mouth.

Injury to the gums

Jewellery can sometimes damage the soft gum tissue.  

Ingesting or inhaling loose jewellery

If parts of piercings come loose, they can be easily swallowed which poses a choking hazard.

Speech problems

Having something new in your mouth all the time takes some getting used to. At first, lip and tongue piercings can cause speech difficulties – especially if the area is still swollen.

Blood-borne diseases

Oral piercings have been identified as a possible factor in transmitting hepatitis.  


Oral piercings carry a risk of endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart valves or tissues. The wound created during oral piercing provides an opportunity for bacteria from the mouth to enter the bloodstream.

You can help avoid any of these risks by going to see a professional piercer who has a good track record and having your piercing done in a sterile environment.

If your oral piercing causes any pain or problems, visit your dentist immediately. Do not wait for your regular check-up.

Proper piercing care

The most important advice is to keep your piercings clean.

If you do not clean mouth piercings regularly then harmful bacteria may enter your bloodstream.

Rinse your oral piercing with antibacterial mouthwash after each meal to limit bacterial build up and debris. When you first have an oral piercing, you may be advised against using alcohol-based mouth rinses for a short time, as they can affect the piercing stud. In this case, you can use either saltwater, saline solution, or just plain water to rinse the mouth. You should also be removing the piercings regularly for thorough cleaning.

Chewing gum should also be avoided whilst mouth piercings are healing.

Even when carried out in a safe and sterile environment, living with an oral piercing can make it more difficult to care for your mouth, and could lead to greater risk of problems in your mouth. Because of this, they are not recommended.

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