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If you’re a fan of lip piercings, you’re probably wondering whether they’re safe to wear while also having braces bonded to your teeth. Most orthodontists, myself included, will probably tell you it’s a bad idea. But there are a couple of ways you can get away with this, so let’s see if there’s a safe way to get or keep that lip piercing if you have braces.
Lip piercings are dangerous with or without braces for multiple reasons: they can get stuck under wires, cause brackets to come off, cause gum recession, and enamel scratches. If you fall and hit your face, your lip piercing could cause injuries to your lips, gums and even chip or crack your teeth.
While most dentists warn against any type of lip or tongue piercing, they’re not all created equal. In this article, we’re going to explore the types of lip piercings I recommend as an orthodontist, and a few ways to make them safer if you just can’t give them up.
Why aren’t lip piercings a good idea when you have braces?
First things first, let’s address the elephant in the room. Lip piercings are a big commitment, and it’s important to consider all the potential risks before taking the plunge. As with all piercings, there’s always a risk of infection.
Your mouth is home to all sorts of bacteria, and when you add a foreign object like a lip ring, you increase the chances of germs getting into your skin and lip mucosa. If you have braces, your lips may already be a bit irritated from the metal wires and brackets, which can make them more prone to infection. We touch on lip swelling in this article as well.
Another thing to consider is that the back of a lip piercing can easily snag on the main wire of your braces. This, by far, is the most common occurrence with piercings and braces. It can be uncomfortable and potentially even damage your braces.
The worst thing ever is when your bottom piercing gets stuck under your top wire. It can happen if you’re eating and doing weird movements with your lips, and the back part of your piercing can get so deeply stuck in between your teeth and the wire that you may need help getting it out. Don’t believe me? Just check this viral video from “The Bentist”.
All this snagging and tugging at the wire can cause brackets to come loose, which is never a good thing and will prolong treatment time. And lastly, it can be really rough on your lips if you experience this multiple times per day.
But probably the greatest argument dentists have against lip piercings of any kind is gum recession. A study published in the Journal of Periodontal Research found that constant mechanical trauma from lip piercing jewelry can cause gum recession in 68% of cases, regardless of where the piercing is located. Whether the piercing was metal or plastic didn’t seem to make a difference either.
Accidents are also a cause for concern. In case of a fall, a lip piercing can actually chip your teeth. It’s not a common occurrence, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind.
Finally, you’ll need to take your lip piercing off a couple of times a year for x-rays, which can be inconvenient if your piercing is particularly difficult to remove and put back.
Ways to make lip piercings safer
Now that we’ve covered the potential risks of lip piercings with braces, let’s talk about ways to minimize those risks. One option is to choose a piercing that doesn’t rest on the gums or teeth, or one that sits higher up on the lip, so it’s less likely to interfere with your braces.
Here are the only options I can recommend:
- Vertical labret. This is the ONLY lip piercing I can recommend as an orthodontist. It goes through the thickness of your lip, and the bar doesn’t rest on your teeth or gums. On the downside, it’s more painful than most lip piercings.
- Vertical philtrum. This piercing is ALMOST okay from a dentistry standpoint. There’s still a chance the bar will rub on the gum above your incisors, but it all depends on the thickness of your lip.
To make it less risky for your gums, try a very low or very high location:
Note: I’m obviously not a piercing professional, but I can speak as a mouth specialist (yes, lips too). So please consult with both your orthodontist and piercing professional before getting your piercings done.
Another thing to consider is choosing a piercing with a short bar. A shorter bar means there’s less of a chance that it will snag on your braces, and you’ll be less likely to play with the bar and rub it on your teeth. Talk to your piercing professional about the best fit, or choose multiple lengths when buying them online.
Bioplast piercings, which are made of a flexible plastic material, are another option. They stick out less than metal piercings and they’re softer, so they’re less likely to cause problems, but there’s still a risk involved.
Finally, you might want to ask your orthodontist for clear aligners instead of traditional braces. There’s a good chance your piercing will snag on the aligner, but since you can just take the aligner out, you don’t risk getting it stuck. Keep in mind, though, that not all orthodontic cases are suited for clear aligners, and they’re more expensive, too.
Not all patients who wear lip piercings experience gum recession and enamel damage, but some will. The risk of gum recession increases if you have thinner gums, which is genetic. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not gum disease that causes it in this particular situation – it’s repeated mechanical trauma to the gums.
My advice is to take this seriously. Receded gums lead to losing teeth prematurely, and it’s just not worth it. So if you feel your lip piercing rubbing on your gums, teeth and braces, I would urge you to take it out.
Curious about more educational content on braces? Check these articles on how braces can impact your lips:
- Braces and Lip Size: Why Do Your Lips Look Different?
- Braces Wrecking Your Lips? Here’s How to Fix It!
Whether you’re new to braces or a braces veteran, taking care of your teeth (and your health) during orthodontic treatment is crucial. That’s why I’ve put together a list of orthodontist-recommended tools that will make caring for your braces a breeze: