If you've been thinking about getting an oral web piercing (also known as an oral frenulum piercing) or just recently got one, this Oral Web Piercing Care guide will teach you everything you need to know to ensure that your new smiley, frowney or tongue web piercing heals well and stays with you for as many years as you want to keep it. Learn what you should know before getting pierced, how to perform proper oral web piercing aftercare, what types of piercing problems you need to watch out for, when you can change your jewelry, what types of jewelry work best in oral web piercings, and more in the sections below.
What You Should Know Before Getting an Oral Web Piercing
There are three types of oral web piercings from which you can choose: smiley piercings, which go through the flap of tissue that connects your inner upper lip to your gums, frowney piercings, which go through the frenulum (web) that connects your inner lower lip to your gums, and tongue web piercings, which go through the tissue that connects the underside of your tongue to the floor of your mouth. All three oral web piercings are technically surface piercings, which means they're more prone to migration and rejection than standard piercings, like earlobe piercings, which have more natural entry and exit points. To minimize the chances of your jewelry migrating out or being rejected entirely, it's best to start out with something like a micro bent barbell in your oral web piercing instead of a captive ring. This is particularly true with smiley piercings, since they hang from the upper lip frenulum, putting more pressure on your healing fistula (piercing hole). You can always switch to a captive ring once your oral web piercing is fully healed, if desired.
If your piercer says you can wear a short straight barbell comfortably in your oral web piercing, consider having a BioFlex straight barbell inserted when you get pierced. They're made of soft, flexible PTFE, which will be gentler on your mouth during the healing process than metal jewelry. You have to have sufficient space to wear a straight barbell in an oral web piercing, so people with smaller pallets may need to stick with more traditional stainless steel or titanium jewelry. If you go with metal jewelry, at least consider getting a barbell with dental-grade acrylic ends like those shown to the left.
If you tend to be a little lax with your oral health care, think twice about getting an oral web piercing. You'll need to perform regular oral web piercing aftercare until your frenulum piercing is fully healed, which may take anywhere from 4 weeks to 12 weeks. Healing times vary by individual, depending on your body, the strength of your immune system, your diligence with your aftercare regime, and whether or not you experience any oral web piercing problems. If you clean your oral web piercing religiously, it's more likely to heal faster and with fewer complications.
Oral Web Piercing Aftercare
There are a few things you absolutely should do while your oral web piercing heals, as well as a number of things you absolutely should not do. If you follow your piercer's oral web piercing aftercare advice and the frenulum piercing care tips below, your piercing is much more likely to heal quickly and without complications.
While Your Frenulum Piercing Heals, DO...
- Rinse Your Mouth Regularly. You'll need to swish your mouth 3-6 times per day with a saline-based oral piercing aftercare rinse while your frenulum piercing heals. You should rinse after brushing your teeth in the morning and evening, as well as after eating. If you find yourself in a situation where you've just eaten and don't have any oral rinse available, at least use tap water to swish any debris out of your mouth so it doesn't get trapped in your healing fistula. You shouldn't need to use an antiseptic mouthwash unless you experience a piercing problem.
- Brush Your Teeth & Floss Carefully. While your frenulum piercing heals, you need to navigate your mouth more carefully when you brush your teeth and floss. Avoid banging your toothbrush into your piercing and snagging your jewelry with dental floss. The best time to perform your morning and evening oral piercing aftercare rinse swishes is right after brushing your teeth. That way the healing saline solution will be the last thing in your mouth and won't get rinsed away by swishing with water after brushing your teeth.
- Eat Soft Foods the First Week or So. Your mouth will be extra sensitive right after you get an oral web piercing, so be careful what you eat during that most-delicate first week or so. Soft foods like Jell-O, yogurt, ripe bananas, rice, pudding, popsicles, apple sauce, etc., are ideal. Avoid crusty breads and other harder foods that may scrape your delicate new fistula and irritate it.
- Generally Take Care of Yourself. If your immune system is in top form, your frenulum piercing will heal faster and better. You should try to get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep each night, eat nutritiously, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, and do your best to avoid other people's germs. These measures will bolster your immune system so it can focus its full attention on healing your new oral web piercing.
While Your Oral Web Piercing Heals, AVOID...
- Inviting Bacteria into Your Mouth. That means no French kissing, no oral sex, no chewing on pens/pencil erasers that other people may have touched or that may transfer bacteria from your own hands into your mouth, and no eating or drinking after anyone else until your frenulum piercing fully heals.
- Alcohol, Aspirin, Excessive Caffeine, & Other Blood Thinners. Many people will experience some degree of bleeding during the early days of the oral web piercing healing process. You might catch your jewelry on your fork or something you're eating, or your mouth may get dry and cause the jewelry to get stuck in a way that irritates your skin when it finally separates, just to name a couple things that can cause bleeding. That's why it's important to avoid anything that may thin your blood--particularly alcoholic beverages, aspirin and excessive amounts of caffeine. If you do that and still experience occasional light bleeding, just swish your mouth with an oral piercing aftercare solution containing sea salt to soothe your mouth and stop the bleeding.
- Playing With Your Jewelry. It can be incredibly tempting to fidget with a new frenulum piercing, but it's very important that you avoid touching it during the healing process. Don't twist, turn, or slide your jewelry with your tongue or your fingers. If you have to touch your oral web piercing jewelry directly when cleaning your mouth or experiencing a piercing problem, thoroughly wash your hands or put on medical gloves first.
- Smoking. Smoking is a double whammy for a healing oral frenulum piercing. The smoke can dry out your mouth, and the nicotine will cause a systemic effect that will slow down your body's ability to heal. You should try to quit smoking entirely before ever getting pierced, but if you can't, consider switching to an e-cigarette filled with low-level nicotine e-juice while your oral web piercing heals. Nicotine patches and lozenges are other good alternatives to smoking. Nicotine gum may not be a great idea, though, since it could get stuck to your jewelry, pull it and cause a tear.
- Alcohol-Based Mouthwash. Listerine and other alcohol-based mouthwash can dry out your mouth, delaying the oral web piercing healing process. It's best to stick with just a healing sea salt mouthwash and/or an antiseptic oral rinse as needed instead of using mouthwash with alcohol, at least for the first 3 months after getting pierced.
- Changing Your Jewelry Prematurely. It may be tempting to upgrade your extra-large starter barbell for a better-fitting, cuter oral web piercing ring, but you absolutely should not change your jewelry until your frenulum piercing is fully healed unless you experience a piercing problem. If you encounter a problem like significant swelling during the first few weeks of the healing process, get your piercer to change your jewelry for you.
Science has proven that sea salt mouthwash is the best tool for cleaning oral web piercings. Salt is inherent in our bodies at the cellular level, making it the least invasive cleanser for oral piercings. Use a product like H2Ocean's Arctic Ocean or Lemon Ice Rinse or Tattoo Goo's Blue Wave Saline Rinse to swish your mouth for at least 30 seconds after eating, and for a full 5 minutes at least twice a day (i.e. morning and night). Alternatively, you can use homemade sea salt solution for any or all of your 3-6 daily rinses.
To make your own sea salt solution, you'll either need to buy sterile water or boil tap water for 5 minutes to sterilize it. Measure out one cup into a heat-safe container, if you just boiled it. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (not table salt, which contains iodine) until it dissolves. Let the mixture cool to a comfortable temperature before swishing it around your mouth. If desired, you can make larger batches ahead of time and store it in a clean, sealed container until you're ready to use it. if you do that, pour some into a cup and use that to transfer it to your mouth so you don't risk trapping bacteria in the bottle containing your extra sea salt solution.
There are a number of problems that may arise with an oral web piercing during the healing process, and sometimes even later. It's important to familiarize yourself with all the potential issues that may crop up so you can identify and address them quickly if you encounter any of them. Read the sections below to learn about each potential problem and how to deal with it.
Lymph is a clear or whitish substance that the body naturally excretes from healing wounds. It's totally harmless, but we've included it here because some people find it concerning when they see lymph excreted from a healing oral web piercing. If you notice strings of clear or white discharge oozing from your oral web piercing, don't fret. Just use an oral piercing aftercare rinse to swish your mouth and clean out the unwanted lymph.
Swelling is less likely to be an issue with healing oral web piercings than with other piercings, but there's always a chance it may become a problem for you. If your new piercing swells so much that your jewelry begins to cut into your frenulum, take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory like acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol). Ibuprofen is also okay, but it can cause bruising, so acetaminophen should be your first go-to for swelling, if you can tolerate an anti-inflammatory at all. Absolutely do not take aspirin, since it can thin your blood and make it hard for your body to form clots if you experience bleeding.
In addition to taking an anti-inflammatory, you may also want to suck on some ice chips to help reduce swelling. If the two things don't reduce your swelling enough, see your piercer as soon as possible. S/he will be able to change out your jewelry for a longer barbell or a ring with a wider diameter. Prolonged pressure on a healing fistula can cause necrosis (tissue death), which is why it's important not to let excessive swelling go on for too long before getting your jewelry changed.
As mentioned earlier, new oral web piercings may bleed occasionally. To minimize bleeding, avoid hard, crusty foods like French bread while your oral frenulum piercing heals. Also, maintain a good moisture level in your mouth by avoiding smoking, drinking plenty of water, and using lozenges for dry mouth as needed. By keeping your mouth moist, your jewelry is less likely to get stuck to your skin and tear away later, causing bleeding. If you experience any bleeding, just rinse your mouth with sea salt solution to cleanse it, help stop the bleeding and soothe your irritated mouth.
Oral Web Piercing Infections
Even if you practice diligent piercing aftercare and follow our do's and don'ts above, there's always a chance you'll develop a piercing infection at some point during the oral web piercing healing process. The signs to watch out for are discharge of thick, yellow pus instead of just lymph, red streaks radiating out from the piercing site, skin around your piercing that feels hotter than usual, and/or fever. If you suspect you're developing an infection, ramp up your oral web piercing aftercare regime ASAP. Start doing three full 5-minute sea salt mouthwash swishes per day in addition to rinsing after eating. You should also consider incorporating an antiseptic oral rinse into your web piercing aftercare regime once or twice a day as needed. Tattoo Goo's X-Pressions Extra Strength Oral Piercing Aftercare Solution or swabs are great products to use when needed. Although hydrogen peroxide that's been diluted per the bottle's instructions for use as a mouthwash is also acceptable, an antiseptic rinse specifically formulated for oral piercings is always a better alternative.
If your symptoms of infection don't get better after a few days of enhanced oral web piercing aftercare, or if they get worse at any point, see your family doctor right away. S/he may prescribe an antibiotic to remedy your oral frenulum piercing infection. If so, make sure you take the full course of antibiotics, and keep up your enhanced piercing aftercare regime until the infection clears up.
It's best not to remove your jewelry while getting over an oral piercing infection, because your fistula could close up with bacteria trapped inside, which could cause you to develop an abscess. If you really want to remove your jewelry, make sure to keep up with your oral web piercing aftercare regime until the fistula fully closes.
Hypergranulation may present as either a red bump alongside your fistula that appears fluid-filled or as a ring of red, puffy tissue around an oral web piercing. This issue is most often triggered by a combination of excessive moisture and pressure. Some people mistake hypergranulations for keloid scars, because both tend to have the same angry-red coloring and taut appearance. However, very few people are actually prone to keloid scars, so it's much more likely that you're dealing with a hypergranulation issue if you develop a bump or lumpy red tissue around your oral web piercing fistula.
This problem can typically be combated by having your jewelry changed for a ring or barbell that fits more loosely. Once the pressure's off, your hypergranulation issue should subside within a week or two at most, if you keep up with your oral web piercing aftercare regime.
Changing Your Oral Web Piercing Jewelry
Twelve weeks after getting an oral web piercing, it should be safe to change your jewelry yourself as long as you haven't experienced any piercing problems that could have delayed the healing process, like infection. However, while your fistula is still relatively young and tender, it may be hard for you to change your oral web piercing jewelry by yourself. You may want to have your piercer change it for you the first time. Over time, the fistula will thicken and reinforce, making it progressively easier for you to change your jewelry without assistance.
When you're ready to try changing your jewelry on your own, consider using your new jewelry to push the old jewelry out for a smoother transition. Alternatively, you could use a piercing taper to thread your new tongue web, frowney or smiley jewelry through. Make sure that your new micro bent barbell or captive ring is the same size as your current jewelry, or you may have trouble inserting it into your oral web piercing on your own. If you can't get your new jewelry in, see your piercer ASAP. Your piercing could close up quickly, in which case you'd need to wait at least 2-3 months to get re-pierced. If you're nervous this might happen to you, ask your piercer to supervise while you try changing your jewelry the first time. That way s/he can jump in if you encounter a problem.
Additional Oral Web Piercing Information
If you'd like to learn more about oral web piercings, check out our Web Piercing FAQs article. You can also visit the Facial/Oral Piercings section of our forum to read about other people's oral web piercing experiences. If you want to post your own questions for our knowledgeable forum moderators and experienced community members to answer, you'll need to sign up for an account. Once you have an account, you'll also be able to view and post oral web piercing pictures in our online photo gallery. For help navigating the forum or gallery, check out our How to Use the Forum and How to Use the Gallery articles.