A cheek piercing, or a dimple piercing, takes place above the side of the mouth, where a dimple is or where one would form. There is a potential for infection, so proper after care is important.

A cheek piercing does not usually cause pain, but people may taste blood after the procedure. They carry some risks, so it is essential for an experienced professional to perform the piercing to avoid complications.

Cheek piercings are less common than other types of piercings as they can lead to serious complications without the correct precautions in place.

Read on for the general procedure and cost of a cheek piercing, pain, side effects, aftercare, and healing time.

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Before a cheek piercing, the piercer will check the mouth properly. They will locate the parotid ducts, which are responsible for depositing saliva into the mouth. This is so that the piercer can take care to avoid injuring them during the piercing process, as these glands are irreparable.

The piercer will mark the jewelry placement so the person having the piercing can see what it will look like. Sometimes the person will swish an oral rinse and can also ask for a topical anesthetic on the skin to reduce pain.

Piercers usually perform a cheek piercing with a needle instead of a piercing gun from inside or outside the mouth. If piercing from the outside, the piercer may place a cork or other barrier into the mouth to protect the tongue and gums.

The piercer may use a threaded needle so the jewelry can enter the hole in one direction.

People have different levels of pain tolerance. However, the cheek has no cartilage, so piercing this site may cause people to feel less pain than piercing a cartilage-dense site such as the upper ear or the nose.

After the piercing, there may be swelling around the area, and some people may taste blood. This is usually short-lived, as bleeding will reduce as the wound heals.

The price of cheek piercing depends on the location and quality of the jewelry. It will typically fall somewhere between $40–100.

The price may also differ depending on whether someone has one or both cheeks pierced.

People should always check the piercer is experienced and qualified to perform the procedure.

Cheek piercings may be dangerous due to their proximity to the parotid gland. Even though a skilled and trained piercer will know how to avoid the duct, accidents can still occur. Other possible side effects include:

  • Scarring: This is common with cheek piercings. However, based on anecdotal opinion, some people opt for a cheek piercing for the scar, not the aesthetics.
  • Swelling: This is natural after a cheek piercing. A person should opt for a longer bar so that it does not become trapped by the swelling and be difficult to clean. It is also advisable to chew carefully to avoid biting the rod inside the cheek. It may help treat the swollen area with ice wrapped in a paper towel and placed on the outside of the cheek for a few minutes.
  • Infection: People may be able to treat the infection at home with careful cleaning. However, a person should consult a doctor if it does not resolve within a few days. Common signs that show an infected piercing include:
    • yellow discharge
    • swelling
    • continuous pain
    • redness and itching

In addition, if there is a bump around a cheek, it could signal:

  • An abscess, which can resolve by cleaning the piercing site and applying a warm compress. A person should consult a doctor as soon as possible if the fluid smells bad.
  • Hypertrophic scar, which is a common response to injured skin.
  • Keloid scar, which forms due to excess scar tissue.

The mouth heals quickly, which is why someone can experience a burn on the roof of their mouth, for example, and not feel pain the next day.

A cheek piercing lies on the mucous membrane of the mouth to enable quick healing, but this does not prevent visible scars on the outside. It usually takes around 8–12 weeks for the piercing to heal.

There are various precautions a person can take to help minimize the risk of complications:

  • Checking the piercer’s credentials: A person should ensure that the body piercer is highly experienced and has performed cheek piercings. People should also ask for pictures of their previous work and their specialty body piercing license.
  • Cleaning and caring for the piercing: A cheek piercing requires proper cleaning about twice daily. A person should alsoavoid activities that prevent proper care of the piercing for up to 8 weeks, such as traveling.
  • Avoiding changing the jewelry: People should refrain from switching the jewelry for 8–12 weeks while the piercing heals.
  • Visiting a dentist afterward: A dentist can check the piercing is not causing dental damage. People should also make sure that the skin is not allergic to the jewelry metal.
  • Skipping a piercing if experiencing dental issues: It is best to avoid a cheek piercing if a person has cavities, receding gums, or enamel wear. This is because the jewelry is likely to rub against the teeth and gums and could worsen the existing issue.

To properly care for a cheek piercing, a person can perform the following steps:

  1. Clean the outside of the piercing using liquid antibacterial soap. If soap is too harsh, dilute it with water on a 1-to-1 ratio. Apply it to the piercing with a cotton bud.
  2. Carefully turn the jewelry only after cleaning the area.
  3. Repeat this at least twice a day for at least 8 weeks.

According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), people can clean a new piercing with a homemade saline solution. This works by adding one-quarter teaspoon of salt to about 40 milliliters of water, or about a glass. To dry the piercing, people should only use a fresh paper towel.

A person should contact a doctor or piercer if they are unsure how to properly care for the piercing.

Before getting a cheek piercing, it is important to note there will be some pain and swelling afterward. However, if this piercing releases an oozing yellow puss, bleeds uncontrollably, or swells excessively, an individual should contact a doctor as soon as possible.

People should also consult a doctor if they think they have a fever or damage to the parotid gland.

Some people opt for cheek piercings to create the impression of a dimple or make existing ones more pronounced. Cheek piercings are safe if performed properly by a skilled piercer but carry more risks due to the proximity to the parotid gland. Although, as with other piercings, there is always the risk of infection.

A person should always confirm the license of the body piercer and that they have experience performing cheek piercings. It is also important to ensure they have properly cleaned and sterilized all equipment.

Knowing the cleaning and aftercare guidelines can help reduce a person’s risk of infection. People should avoid activities that will prevent or interfere with the proper care of the piercing.