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Smiley Piercing Meaning, Price, Pain, Healing & Aftercare

Just like its name, a smiley piercing is a beautiful oral piercing that involves the frenulum in the upper lip. It is a great way of complementing a beautiful set of teeth and lips. Also known as scrumper or frenulum piercing, it is placed on a very thin line of skin that connects the upper lip to the gum line.

However, before you rush out to get one here is a complete guide including; the cost, pain, aftercare, healing, infection, risks and the type of jewelry that can be worn.

This piercing has grown very popular in modern culture since the first recorded instance in the mid 90’s. It is considered exotic with that beauty X-factor in that people won’t see it as much until you give that surprise grin.


What is it? A smiley piercing is done on the inside of the upper lip, specifically on the frenulum. The frenulum is the thin piece of tissue in the middle of the inside of your upper lip- it connects your lip to your gum line. Alternative names include scrumper or frenulum.

Note that the frenulum is also found on the lower lip hence frenulum is not often used as a name. The name frenulum can be used in reference to the lower or upper lip.

cute smiley piercing
cute one

So, why the name smiley? This is because it is only visible when the wearer smiles. The jewelry will only be seen when one has a wide a grin on their face. The one worn on the lower lip frenulum is oppositely named frowny piercing or anti-smiley since one has to frown for it to be visible.

What are the pros and cons 

Just like all other lip piercings, its pros and cons are centered on the risks involved. Careful consideration needs to be made before going ahead with it or any other type of body modification. This includes getting all the information necessary, understanding the risks involved and knowing how best to deal with them.

  • You do not have to worry about hiding it- well unless you smile all the time
  • It heals very fast
  • Does not go through a lot of tissue
  • Compliments your teeth and lips
  • Has a range of jewelry options


  • It is very painful
  • Has a high chance of rejection and migration
  • It is not for everyone- some people have a very small frenulum
  • Slight natural movement of the lips can exert pressure on the piercing
  • Risk of irreversible gum and tooth damage

How to do it

For some reason many people especially those who are underage, consider self-piercing. Some find it easy to pierce themselves, other find seeking professional services. Most young people self-pierce because their parents won’t sign papers in accordance with regulations.

While it may be a little easy do other lip piercings on your own, a smiley on your own smiley is a no-no. I highly encourage you consult an experienced piercer so that he/she can determine whether your frenulum web is large enough to sustain this piercing. He or she will also advise on the type of jewelry and gauge that is best suited for your frenulum. You will also be taught proper aftercare methods to help reduce the risk of getting an infection and rejection.

How to change the jewelry

A smiley takes a very short time to heal and it shouldn’t be a problem for anyone to wait for at least 2 weeks to make the first jewelry change. Changing the jewelry too soon could cause irritation, swelling and even infection. Here is how to change the jewelry safely:

  1. Always wash your hands with mild antibacterial soap and running water before and after any jewelry change
  2. Depending on the type of jewelry you have, unscrew the ball
  3. Follow the old jewelry thought with the new one so that you do not lose the hole
  4. Then screw back the balls and secure them in place
  5. Be sure you use the same gauge as used before

Alternatively, you can go back to your piercer and have it changed for free.

How to Hide it

Can you hide it? Smiley piercings can be discreet but since CBR’s are the most commonly used type of jewelry, all it takes is a smile for it to be spotted. Smileys can be easily hidden with a bar compared to a ring- even when your mouth is open.

Alternatively, you can use a ring with a smaller diameter, leaving you with the risk of knowing when to smile.

People with bigger lip tissue may be able to naturally hideiince one has to practically pull back the lip to expose the piercing. Frownys, on the other hand, are more discreet but not as common as smileys.

Pictures or images

The following images show you a variety of ways to wear smiley piercing.

Horseshoe piercing rings with ball ends and spikes pictures

Pictures 5 and 6 A straight or curved barbell cab also be worn to make the piercing more discreet

A straight or curved barbell
curved barbell with spikes
A straight or curved barbell
A straight or curved barbell can also be worn

The most popular jewelry is the circular captive beaded ring

popular smiley piercing jewelry
Image 7
popular smiley piercing jewelry
Image 8
popular smiley piercing jewelry
Image 9

Price or cost

How much does a smiley piercing cost? The price of getting a smiley depends on your locality, specific studio and individual piercer. In the US, depending on where you get it done, the price ranges from $40 to $80 with an average of $50 in most states.

At Blue Banana, one of the biggest piercing names in the UK does, a smiley will be done for 20-25 pounds. You may be lucky to bump into one of the regular promotions which will cost you way less. In Singapore, another popular body modification center,  price ranges between 30 to 40 Singapore dollars with a small variation in the specific studio.

Anti-smiley piercing

Now that you know what a smiley piercing is, anti-smiley piercing is more self-explanatory. Also known as frowny, it is done on the lower lip frenulum- an exact opposite of the smiley on the upper lip frenulum. They are hardly visible unless one frowns or lowers the lower li to expose the lower set of teeth and gum line. They are less popular and since it’s very discreet and preferred only by those who love to keep their body modifications a secret.

Just like smileys, frownys are prone to lots of risks and problems such as migration and rejection. It is also impossible to have this piercing done if your frenulum is too small.

The standard jewelry for a frowny is a small delicate CBR usually gauge 16 or 18 and more than half an inch in diameter. It is very important to get the right type of jewelry to prevent unnecessary tooth and gum damage.

Do they hurt

Does a smiley piercing hurt? People have different thresholds and sometimes it can get a little difficult to answer this question. Most people with write to give you comfort and tell you that it won’t hurt but the truth is, any piercing hurts- it all depends on where and how it is done. The frenulum is a very sensitive tissue which means more pain perception. However, the tissue is very thin and the needles go through it very fast. You may not even realize that the needles are already through to the other side.

As with most oral types, the real pain is felt once the swelling starts. The discomfort and pain can be easily managed with some basic remedies and should be gone in a few days.


If you are looking for how to take care of this piercing, it is important to know that utmost oral hygiene is paramount. A good, professional piercer will hand you a set of printed instructions and explain each one of them; which by the way are not any different from other lip piercings. Cleaning solution such as H2Ocean and alcoholic mouthwash may be part of the products offered for a small fee.

In the initial healing stages, it is best to avoid smoking, alcohol and hot spicy foods which may irritate it as it heals.

Here Is How it

  1. Always wash your hands before and after cleaning your piercing
  2. Gargle with non-alcoholic antibacterial mouthwash for five minutes at least twice a day and after every time you smoke.
  3. Rinse with saline water for 5 minutes in the morning and evening. You can make a saline solution by mixing a teaspoon of salt with warm water. Saltwater solution is an effective way of infection prevention.

Note: Buy a new toothbrush as soon as you get a new piercing to prevent infections. It may be a little tender in the initial stages and also considering that the frenulum is very delicate, it is advisable to be gentle and careful not exert unnecessary pressure.


Unlike most lip piercings, smileys heal rather quickly. For most people, it will be healed in 4-8 weeks. This healing process may, however, be longer in absence of good aftercare. The pain generally subsides from the second to the 4 weeks where the first jewelry change can be done comfortably. Other factors such as smoking, general health and diet can also prolong or shorten the healing time.

Infected cases

There is never a guarantee that you will not a get an infection once you get a lip piercing. It is actually one of the possibilities. There are however things you can do to reduce the chances of getting an infected piercing. Follow the aftercare instructions to the letter not forgetting the sea salt soaks and rinsing with antibacterial mouthwash. Keep in mind that anything can be a source of infection; from the jewelry material to food particles.

The early signs of an infection include; throbbing pain, extreme tenderness, fever, redness, and discharge of pus. Once you notice any signs of infection, consult your piercer immediately. Do not try to remove the jewelry as the piercing will heal and close up the pus causing a discharge.


The major risks that come with a smiley piercing are tooth erosion and gum recession. This potential damage can be caused by bad positioning of jewelry in your mouth. A professional piercer knows how to place the ball just below your gum line. The continuous rubbing against gums and teeth is what causes the gum and teeth damage. Other dangers include:

Migration and Rejection

The small thing frenulum tissue places the risk of smiley piercing migration and rejection very high. There isn’t a lot of flesh to hold the jewelry in place. Even the slightest of natural lip movement can place stress on the lip. You may soon notice that the piercing and jewelry are moving from the original location. Some have even reported that the jewelry literally fell off. Ask your piercer about jewelry options that pose a lesser risk. If your piercer tells you that your web is too small or thin, your best bet will be not to go ahead with the piercing.

Basic activities like brushing teeth and chewing should be done carefully to prevent injuries. You may have to get used to chewing using your side teeth and not your front teeth.

It is advisable to be very diligent with your oral hygiene and observant with your teeth and gums. Tooth and gum damage may take a couple of weeks or years.


For most smiley piercings the starter jewelry is captive beaded rings or a horse shoe bars. The standard size is gauge 16-18 and not more than half an inch in diameter. Some people opt for larger jewelry so that the piercing is visible all the time. Since the piercing is very delicate, it is always good to stick to small jewelry.

Barbells and studs can also be used. They are less visible and easy to hide. It is also very important to choose materials that do not react with your skin such as titanium or copper. There is a wide variety of jewelry options for sale in jewelry shops such as eBay.

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