A medusa piercing places a stud in the philtrum, the groove directly under the nose and above the center of the lips. As with most piercings, there is a risk of infection. A person should follow a reputable piercer’s aftercare instructions carefully.

Oral piercings have the potential to result in damage to the gums or teeth, causing recesses, gingivitis, or wearing of the enamel.

A person should keep their piercing clean, brush their teeth, and use mouthwash after meals. Using a reputable tattooist or piercer will help to reduce the risk of infection or contracting illnesses, such as hepatitis or HIV.

People should also be aware that removing the piercing may leave a hole or scar in the lip.

In this article, we will explore the pain level of this type of piercing and what to expect during piercing.

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A medusa or philtrum piercing positions a stud in the center groove above the cupid’s-bow of the lip.

A piercer usually fits the piercing with a long labret stud. Once the piercing heals, a person can exchange the stud for a shorter stud to avoid causing damage to their teeth and gums.

All piercings will hurt to some extent. For upper lip piercings, the needle pushes through collagen and dense elastic tissue.

The lip area has more nerve endings than the ear lobe, but the pain is brief. A professional piercing needle is very sharp, and people have different thresholds for pain, so it is difficult to tell how each person will respond to the experience.

A person should expect:

  • a clean and tidy workspace with separate areas for waiting, sterilizing equipment, and carrying out the piercing procedure
  • the piercer washes their hands before commencing work
  • the piercer to wear sterile gloves
  • a single-use needle and for the piercer to dispose of it in an appropriate bin.

Additionally, a person should expect a consultation with the piercer. The person should feel comfortable asking questions and choosing jewelry, which will suit their anatomy. The person should receive aftercare instructions from the piercer, who should explain possible risks and complications and the healing process. The piercer may tell a client about how long they have been piercing and how they maintain and improve their skills. The person will pay for both the piercing and the jewelry.

A person should trust their instincts about the piercer. If something seems wrong with the way the piercer runs their business, a person should not go through with the procedure.

A person under 18 years of age will need a parent or guardian to sign a consent form.

The piercer will disinfect the lip area and use a non-permanent marker to mark the placing of the piercing. A piercer should ask if the person is happy with the placing and re-position the mark if necessary.

All tools and jewelry should be in sealed, sterile packets. A piercer should not soak their needles in liquid to disinfect them, and a person should reject the appointment if this happens while they are there.

The piercer grasps the top lip with forceps to hold it steady while they insert the needle. A person may feel a slight sensation of pain as the needle breaks the skin.

The piercer inserts the piercing and fits a metal stem with a flat back. Labret stems start from 6 millimeters in length and are 1.2 mm thick. The decorative head gem or pin is usually around 4 mm in circumference. The piercer screws the threaded head, which is usually a ball or cone shape, onto the stem to attach it firmly.

Initially, the piercing site may swell and discolor due to bruising. Some localized bleeding and itching or a yellow crust on the jewelry may occur.

A person should care for a new piercing by:

  • washing their hands thoroughly when preparing to touch the jewelry
  • using a piece of gauze to apply a sterile saline wash to clean the piercing area
  • not rotating the jewelry
  • drying the area with disposable products rather than cloth products, which may harbor germs
  • using mouthwash to clean the inside of the wound

The Association of Professional Piercers (APP) suggests that an oral piercing can affect eating and drinking. To avoid the risk of causing complications with the piercing, the APP suggests a person should:

  • eat food in small bites
  • avoid food that is too warm, spicy, salty, or acidic for the first few days
  • drink cold food or beverages to soothe the piercing
  • avoid clumpy foods, such as mashed potatoes or oatmeal, which could stick to the jewelry

A person should purchase a new toothbrush, and brush their teeth after every meal. A person should also use an antimicrobial or antibacterial mouthwash.

Oral piercings may appear to heal quite quickly, but the inside of the wound may take more time to completely heal.

The healing process after getting a piercing includes swelling, a little bleeding, and bruising with some tenderness in the area. Additionally, it is possible for the wound to secrete a small amount of white lymphatic fluid, which is not pus. The swelling will completely subside in about 1–2 weeks, and at this time, the piercer should swap the labret stud for a smaller one.

A person can take over-the-counter (OTC) medication for pain relief and swelling reduction. A person may also suck on small pieces of ice to help numb the area.

A person should continue cleaning both the inside of their mouth and the outside wound during the entire healing period.

An oral piercing hole can close up very quickly if a person removes the jewelry. If necessary, a person should visit a piercer again to remove the jewelry before the wound completely heals.

A new piercing is at risk of infection. A person should avoid kissing or oral sex for the first two weeks after a new piercing. Symptoms of an infection include:

  • darkness or discoloration around the piercing area, swollen, and hot to touch
  • blood or pus leaking from the wound
  • a person feeling shivery or ill

A person should make an appointment with a medical professional if they suspect that they have an infection related to their new piercing. The jewelry should be left in place until a doctor can examine the wound.

A 2020 study on oral piercings and oral health found that people with oral piercings could have the following complications:

  • gingivitis or gum recession, usually due to the piercing causing an indentation about the size of the piercing inside of the mouth
  • tongue lesions
  • thickening of the frenulum, the tissue that attaches the mouth to the gums
  • a fractured tooth caused by a person playing with the piercing in their mouth

The study highlights the importance of a good oral health routine for a person with one or more oral piercings. The 2020 study found that 70.6% of participants felt their piercers had not informed them regarding risks to gums that can occur with oral piercings.

Other habits that can affect the oral health of people with oral piercings include:

  • smoking
  • lip biting
  • playing with the jewelry with the tongue
  • tapping the jewelry against the teeth
  • nail biting

A person may experience an allergic reaction to metal jewelry. A person should check whether they have a metal allergy before proceeding with a piercing.

Anyone considering getting a piercing should do some research about the possible risks and complications. A person should also check that the prospective piercing establishment has a good reputation.

A person will need to look after the piercing site carefully, which includes maintaining good oral health habits. This includes brushing their teeth after every meal and using an alcohol-free mouthwash.

A person should change their initial labret stud for a shorter one after about two weeks when the swelling subsides. If skin begins to grow over the back of the labret, a person may need to exchange their jewelry for a longer stud for a short time.

A person should wash their hands before touching their piercing, avoid playing with their piercing, and take care while eating with an oral piercing. A person should avoid kissing or oral sex for the first two weeks, as these actions can cause an infection at the piercing site.

If a person removes the labret, they may have a permanent hole or scar in their lip.