Oral piercings, although not as common as ear piercings, are historically found in African cultures and Native American cultures. The Aztecs and Mayans wore labrets around the mouth. Pre-Columbian cultures inserted plates onto the lip by stretching it. The Dogon group of Mali have historically worn rings around the mouth and lip. Tongue piercings were presented as status symbols in Aztec, Mayan and Olmec cultures.
Nose piercings date back to early India and the nomadic groups of the Middle East. The Vedas refer to Lakshmi's nose piercing and have influenced women of India to wear rings around the nostrils. Wearing nose studs or rings continues to be a custom for Hindu women. Hindu women must wear the piercing, usually on the left nostril, during childbearing years. Some women get the piercing right before marriage.
Today, oral piercings continue to be popular. The historical traditions of African and South American cultures also continue to be practiced. The most popular types of oral piercings include the lip, Madonna, Medusa, Lower and Superior Fraenum, tongue and labret.
Oral piercings can create problems if they are not cared for regularly and properly. However, the mouth contains beneficial bacteria that aid the healing process for mouth piercings. It is important to regularly rinse the area with Saline or anti-septic solutions. Mouthwash can also help reduce the chance of infection, but overuse of mouthwash can kill friendly bacteria.
Jewelry worn on or near the mouth should not move around constantly. Movement tends to aggravate the pierced area and extend the healing time. Hard food, biting jewelry, and rubbing the gum lining can add wear and tear on tongue piercings. Ball jewelry can also be dangerous when screws loosen. Some people may swallow the ball. Infections in oral piercings can spread to the blood or other areas of the body much quickly. Any sign of infection should be dealt with immediately.
Aftercare for nose piercings involves cleaning the inside of the nostril consistently. Mucus can build up and block oxygen. Bacteria can also get locked in or sit on the surface of the nose. Bacteria on the surface produced by the oils of skin can enter through the hole. It is important to regularly clean both the inside and outside of the nostril.
Most people pierce the lower lip down the middle or to the sides. The piercing goes through thin tissue beneath the lip. Typically, a 1.6mm gauge is worn and the length varies according to the thickness of tissue being pierced. Ball closure rings are popular, but need to be large enough to accommodate swelling. The healing time for lip piercings is 4 to 12 weeks.
The Madonna piercing, also called the "Angel Kiss" or "Marilyn" is located on the upper lip. This piercing is usually positioned where a beauty mark would be. A labret is better for healing, but some people wear ball closure rings. The healing time is 4 to 12 weeks.
The Medusa is located on the center part of the upper lip right bellow the nose. Labrets are usually best for this area and the healing time is 4 to 12 weeks.
Lower and superior fraenum piercings are not highly common. The lower fraenum is the membrane of thin muscular tissue that connects the lower lip to the lower gum. The superior fraenum is where the upper lip is connected to the upper gum. This area is typically pierced with micro jewelry. The healing time is 4 to 12 weeks.
Tongue piercings are highly common among men and women. The tongue is usually pierced from the underside and exits through the surface of the tongue. It is important for piercers to check the tongue before piercing. The piercer must not pierce into the arterial vein, which runs down the center of the tongue. The tongue is also a muscle and receives plenty of blood pumped into it. Not everyone is a candidate for a tongue piercing. The healing time is 3 to 12 weeks.
The labret piercing is located right beneath the lip. The piercing goes through thin tissue beneath the lip. Most people wear a labret of 1.6mm gauge to pierce. Ball closure rings are also popular jewelry choices. The healing time is 4 to 12 weeks.
Nostril piercings are usually anywhere along the curve of the nostril. It is important to do the piercing where cartilage is thinnest. Studs, labrets and barbells can be worn, but need to be long enough to accommodate swelling. The healing time is quite extensive and can range from 12 to 16 weeks.
The septum is cartilage on the inside of the nose separating the two nostrils. The piercing is located near the front of the septum. The septum is very tough cartilage and more difficult to pierce through. People often wear ball rings, barbells or circular barbells. The healing time is 12 to 16 weeks.