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Are Lip and Tongue Piercings Really Bad for Your Teeth?

lip piercing tooth damage

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If you are considering getting an oral piercing (or you already have one) you hear it all the time: “Won’t that hurt your teeth?” While jewelry may not physically hurt your teeth, most piercings that go in or around the mouth can cause damage to your teeth over time. So how much damage, how can you mitigate the damage, and which piercings are the safest?

How do lip and tongue piercings hurt your teeth?

Your teeth and gums are delicate and can be more easily damaged than most people believe. Even though your jewelry doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) clang against your teeth all day long, it still causes damage to your teeth and gums. Even the slight rubbing of a piercing against your gums only when you eat still causes significant life long damage. Oral piercings have been shown to not only cause and accelerate cavities, but also cause gum recession. Recent studies have even shown certain piercings even wear away enamel by as much as 20%.

Can you prevent tooth damage from piercings?

Unfortunately there is no way to avoid 100% of tooth damage if you have an oral piercing. Any jewelry type, no matter the size, will cause some sort of damage to your teeth or gums if you have jewelry that goes inside your mouth. However, if you are dedicated to your oral piercing and are unwilling to part with it, there are a few things you can do to try and mitigate some of the damage.

  1. Make sure to downsize as soon as possible. With a properly fitted piece of jewelry, there will be less metal available to rub against your teeth and gums.
  2. Do not “play” with your piercing. This is good advice for any piercing, but specifically for people with oral piercings it can help prevent a lot of unnecessary damage. People with lip or tongue piercings tend to like to fiddle with their piercings especially. Try to resist this urge.
  3. Use a safe jewelry material, such as implant grade titanium. Some people recommend softer materials to reduce tooth damage, such as acrylic. Soft materials do not prevent damage and they can harbor bacteria, which causes infections.

Which Oral Piercings Don’t Cause Damage?

Unfortunately any piercing that has any part of the jewelry in your mouth can cause tooth and gum damage. This includes lip piercings, tongue piercings, and webbing piercings. There is one piercing that has the appearance of going into your mouth, but doesn’t and therefore is not a risk of tooth damage: vertical labret piercings. A vertical labret piercing simply pierces through the lip and no part of the jewelry goes into the mouth so it is a completely safe piercing.


It is relatively unknown that all oral piercings cause tooth and gum damage. Luckily there are a few steps you can take to attempt to mitigate the damage caused by your jewelry. If you want the look of a lip piercing without dealing with the dental problems that come with it, a vertical labret piercing may be a viable option for you.