Smiley Piercing (Frenulum): Cost, Pain, Healing, Aftercare, and Jewelry

Smiley lip piercing

The cheerful-sounding smiley piercing gets its name from the fact that you can only see it when you smile. It’s also called a frenulum piercing because it goes right through the frenulum.

Most smiley piercings are done with small rings or horseshoe barbells. They tend to not last very long, but they are fun, unique piercings perfect for those seeking something different.

What is a smiley piercing?

Smiley piercing (frenulum): Cost, pain, healing, aftercare, and jewelry

The smiley lip piercing, also called the frenulum piercing, is done through the frenulum on the inside of the upper lip. The frenulum is the thin tissue that connects the gums and the upper lip.

The jewelry used is only visible when an individual smiles, hence the name. And it is most commonly preferred by those individuals who want a discrete piercing.

The smiley piercing is not a permanent piercing. Instead, it will only last a few years. Eventually, most people’s bodies will reject it, as the tissue of the lip frenulum is very thin and its area very small.

The most common jewelry in this piercing includes the circular barbell, the captive bead ring, or a seamless ring that either has or lacks any adornment.

They can be designed from implant-grade titanium, Niobium, 14-karat gold, or surgical stainless steel. This piercing range from 18G to 16G in thickness.

Smiley piercing pros and cons

Getting any piercing is a major decision, so it’s wise to think carefully before you commit. If you’re considering a smiley piercing, here are some pros and cons to think about:


  • It gives you a unique and edgy look.
  • It’s easier to hide than most other lip piercings like the medusa piercing.
  • It only lasts a few years and is a great choice if you are not looking for a permanent piercing.
  • It usually heals very quickly.
  • It’s not too painful because of the thin layer of tissue punctured.


  • In some cases, it can cause gum recession, teeth erosion, and teeth enamel damage due to its location.
  • It is not a permanent piercing. Eventually, most people’s bodies will reject a smiley piercing.
  • Since your mouth is full of bacteria, it’s more prone to infection than some other piercings.
  • You have a limited selection of jewelry for this piercing.

Smiley piercing pain

The smiley piercing may hurt much more than the earlobe or many other types of lip piercings due to the thin size of the frenulum. However, it is still bearable because of the thin layer of tissue punctured.

How much is a smiley piercing?

The cost mostly depends on the location and price of the jewelry. Most stores charge between $30-$80. Some websites list their charges, and it would be wise to go through them before visiting the store.

How long does a smiley piercing take to heal?

The healing time for this piercing ranges between 4 and 12 weeks. For some people, it may take less (3 weeks) or more time (up to 6 months) to heal all the way.

Spice it up: septum smiley piercing

Potential risks of smiley lip piercings

Like all piercings, the smiley piercing comes with some risks. Here are some of the main ones to watch for:

1. Infected smiley piercing

All piercings carry some risk of infection. However, since the smiley piercing is in your mouth and your mouth is full of bacteria, infection is especially likely.

Your piercer will likely tell you to rinse your mouth with a saline solution a few times a day (and often after eating). Make sure you follow aftercare instructions to minimize your risk of infection!

2. Smiley piercing rejection

If you get a smiley piercing, rejection is extremely likely. The frenulum constantly regenerates cells, and the smiley piercing will usually be pushed out of place. It often pushes against the tendon at the edge of the frenulum, causing some pain and irritation.

If you notice the piercing starting to move, get in touch with your piercer right away for advice. Otherwise, it can lead to a buildup of scar tissue.

3. Smiley piercing teeth damage and gum recession

Since the smiley piercing is located in your mouth, the piercing jewelry, especially if it is a captive bead ring, may knock against your teeth and gums. And this will cause problems like teeth erosion, gum recession, and teeth enamel damage.

If this happens, consider switching to a plain ring or even removing the jewelry. You should also consult with a reputable piercer. They can tell you if the placement is off and advise you on what to do next.

That being said, if you already have damaged gums or any other gum disease, you probably aren’t a candidate for a smiley piercing.

Smiley piercing with braces

You can technically get a smiley piercing with braces, but it’s really not a good idea. Your piercing can easily snag on your braces. That can be very painful, especially when the piercing is fresh. In severe cases, it can even tear.

If you want a smiley piercing, the best course of action is to wait until your braces are removed.

Eating with a smiley piercing

The unique location of the smiley piercing makes eating a challenge for some.

The jewelry can sometimes get caught as you chew, which can lead to chipped or broken teeth. Eating can also irritate the piercing as it heals, making it more likely for your body to reject it or develop an infection.

What to do then? Eat slowly, and think about chewing. Avoid hot and spicy food and hot drinks which will scald and/or increase swelling.

How to hide a smiley piercing?

Since a smiley piercing is only visible when you smile, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to hide it. Close your mouth slightly so others can’t see it. You can also take the jewelry off.

What gauge is a smiley piercing

A gauge in the context of lip piercing refers to the barbell thickness passing through the lip piercing. This piercing range from 18G (1 mm) to 16G (1.2 mm) in thickness. If you are unsure what size gauge to use for your lip piercing, consult with your piercer.

Smiley piercing jewelry

1. Smiley piercing fangs

If you want a cool, edgy look, you might be interested in a vampire smiley piercing, also called smiley piercing fangs. It can be a bit similar to the angel fangs piercing.

This piercing is usually fitted with a curved barbell with a fang-like point on each end. It is carefully placed so that one “fang” rests on top of each canine tooth.

Since the vampire smiley piercing is a little different from a regular smiley piercing, there are a few more pros and cons to consider:


  • It’s more noticeable than a regular smiley, so it’s a good choice if you want to stand out.
  • It’s a great addition to Halloween costumes.
  • It’s even more unique than a plain smiley piercing.


  • Since the “fangs” extend along your teeth, tooth damage is more likely.
  • The longer barbell makes it easier for your piercing to snag on things and even get ripped out.

Basically, the vampire smiley piercing can be an interesting choice for short-term wear. But if you want to keep your smiley piercing for a longer period of time, a regular smiley is the safer and more logical choice.

2. The circular barbell

The circular barbell is also called a horseshoe barbell. With this jewelry, the bar bends into a horseshoe shape, and there is a ball at each end.


  • They’re much easier to put in and take out than captive bead rings.
  • You can decorate them with a number of interesting stones.
  • They offer a tougher look than some other types of belly button piercings.


  • They can easily become crooked.

3. Captive Bead Rings

With a captive bead ring, a stone, bead, or other decoration is held “captive” on the ring. Thanks to its placement, the bead makes it look like the ring has no seams or openings.


  • Since it’s less common than barbells, it’s a good way to stand out.
  • The captive bead can be a precious or semi-precious stone.
  • Its seamless look makes it especially interesting.


  • Captive beads can be very hard to put on and take off.
  • This jewelry type often ends up leaning to one side or otherwise looking asymmetrical.

4. Seamless hoops

When shopping for piercing jewelry, you may come across classic rings. When they are inserted properly, they create a complete, closed shape. They may be a complete circle, or they may take other fun shapes like a heart, moon, or oval.

They are typically just metal hoops, which is ideal if you’re looking for something simple.

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  • They are classic and timeless
  • They offer a clean look.
  • They’re also less likely to get caught on things because of their closed design.
  • They usually remain securely in place
  • They are comfortable.


  • Thin hoops can be bent very easily
  • They can be hard to insert at first
  • You may need to be careful to avoid distorting the shape as you open and close the jewelry.

Recommended materials for smiley piercing

1. Implant-Grade Titanium

Titanium is an element that is completely hypoallergenic, so it’s probably the best material for piercings, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Implant-grade titanium is the purest form and will not change or corrode if it’s exposed to skin or bodily fluids. Implant-grade titanium jewelry is durable, hypoallergic, lead-free, nickel free, and non-corrosive.

Implant-grade titanium is often marketed as ASTM F-136 titanium. Compared to ASTM F-136 titanium, G23 titanium is not an implant grade of titanium.

Price Range: About $10-$20.


  • Approved by the Association of Professional Piercers
  • Won’t cause allergic reactions
  • Is scratch-resistant and won’t fade


  • Not as valuable as gold, silver, or platinum
  • Doesn’t sparkle quite as much as other metals

2. 14K or 18K Gold

If you’re looking for a glittering, valuable metal for your piercing, either 14K or 18K gold may be your answer.

It is also one of the best metals for piercings that are highly recommended not only by piercing experts but also doctors. Its excellent quality of being inert makes it suitable for first piercings.

However, gold is a fairly soft metal, so it doesn’t stand up to scratches and excessive wear. Compared to 14K gold, 18K gold is more prone to being affected by everyday use as it is softer and is closer to being pure 24K gold.

Both of these metals include other metal types in order to make them stronger. In order to avoid skin reactions, look for nickel-free metals.

Price Range: About $30-$200.


  • One of the most valuable materials
  • Will not easily tarnish
  • Offers plenty of sparkles
  • Is easy to engrave or use to set stones


  • May contain non-hypoallergenic metals
  • 18K gold in particular is not very scratch resistant

3. Platinum

Platinum is a precious metal, so it’s one of the pricier options on the list. It’s completely hypoallergenic, so it’s safe for even very sensitive skin. Its brilliant luster makes it a good choice for those seeking a sparkly, high-end look.

Price Range: About $40-$200.


  • Hypoallergenic and non-reactive
  • Has a brilliant shine
  • Is a very valuable material


  • Is a lot heavier than other metals
  • It’s uncommon, so your jewelry choices might be limited

4. Surgical Stainless Steel

Lots of new piercings are done in stainless steel. This material is affordable and typically doesn’t cause reactions. However, it contains a small amount of nickel, so if you have a nickel allergy, it might be best to choose something else.

It is incredibly resistant to corrosion and will keep its shine for years.

If you’re considering steel, 316L or 316 LVM steel is probably your best choice. Both names stand for the same surgical steel material, but the “VM” stands for”vacuum melt,” or the way the steel is produced.

Price Range: About $10-$40.


  • Very affordable
  • Common enough that you’ll have plenty of jewelry choices
  • Extremely durable and resistant to damage and corrosion


  • May cause reactions in those with nickel allergies
  • Not considered as valuable as some other materials

5. Niobium

Niobium is also one of the best metals for piercings. It is a highly pure, hypoallergenic metal that’s a lot like titanium. However, it is heavier than titanium and more expensive to produce, so it tends to be harder to find in the world of body jewelry.

Price Range: About $20-$60.


  • Won’t react when exposed to bodily fluids
  • Completely hypoallergenic
  • Has a brilliant shine


  • Rare enough that your jewelry choices might be limited
  • Heavier than titanium

Smiley piercing aftercare

  • Take care to avoid contaminating the piercing.
  • Rinse your mouth with water after eating.
  • Avoid touching it.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day.
  • Clean your piercing twice per day using a saline/salt solution.
  • When brushing your teeth and cleaning your mouth, use an alcohol-free antibacterial mouthwash.
  • Don’t move the piercing before it heals. Pulling on a piercing early in healing is painful, but it also can get in the way of healing or damage the piercing itself.
  • No kissing.
  • Eat slowly, and think about chewing. Avoid hot and spicy food and hot drinks which will scald and/or increase swelling.

How to clean a smiley piercing?

  1. Make a salt solution by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of salt with one cup of water. Stir the solution until it dissolves. As an alternative, you can buy a ready-to-use saline solution.
  2. Soak a cotton ball in the solution and dab it around the piercing site. Don’t remove the jewelry!
  3. Take clean gauze or tissue and pat the area dry.

Your piercer should give you detailed instructions on keeping your piercing clean once the piercing has been placed.

Read More

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