Chances are, you've heard about — or at least seen, in the noses of cool girls everywhere — the rise in popularity of septum piercings over the past year. Cattle comparisons be damned, because men and women of all ages have been opting for jewelry in their nostrils, and this quickly became the fashion piercing. Until now. According to famed piercing artist J. Colby Smith of New York Adorned, there's a "new" piercing (quotes because, really, is anything new anymore?) looking to take the septum's throne. And it's known as the "smiley." The name comes from the fact that this jewelry is incognito when the person's mouth is closed and only appears when the wearer smiles. Not only has Smith seen an uptick in customers asking to have this piercing done, the Smiley is also at the top of his personal favorite-piercing list at the moment. Additionally, Smith says that because this piercing heals so quickly, he's seen zero problems with it. "Smileys are one of my favorites right now," Smith explains, "because it’s unexpected; it’s something not everybody has and not everybody wants. Because people are still trying to decide how they feel about [them]." We gather that many of you may feel rather skeptical — and with good reason, according to Los Angeles piercer Brian Keith Thompson. Thompson says he does Smileys very rarely on customers (and only with gold, which he notes is safest), because they can negatively affect the health of the mouth. "I think, as a piercer, you have a moral obligation to tell the people that are trusting you and giving you their money the pros and cons of it," Thompson says. "[With] a lot of piercings, the only cons are that it could get infected, you could have an allergic reaction, and it could, and probably will, leave a scar. But anything in the mouth, there are far greater risks."
Smileys are one of my favorites right now because it’s unexpected; it’s something not everybody has and not everybody wants.
J. Colby Smith
According to Michael Apa, DDS, two of the biggest issues you may run into with a Smiley are gradual gum recession and tooth damage. "There's a spot in your mouth between the attached gum and movable gum...if it's placed there, it will pull on the attached gum and cause recession," Dr. Apa says. "There's a big chance of infection, [and] it can easily chip your teeth."
Cosmetic dentist Pia Lieb echoes Dr. Apa's concerns and adds a few other things you should be wary of. "The problem is, it's not in the dermis or epidermis, so there is no support system. The mucosa is very thin and pliable — like when you eat hot pizza and you burn your mouth. It’s like hanging out in jello," she says. "Every time you bite, you will tug on it. Your upper lip drops with age, and this will drop; it will not stay where it is now." She also notes that, since you're being pierced with a metal object, it can be super abrasive on your teeth: "like Soft Scrub on your enamel," she explains. Not the prettiest of pictures.
For the rebels who still want to go through with the peek-a-boo piercing (because we know you're out there) — there is some good news. Since the Smiley heals quickly, you can easily take the jewelry out and only rock it occasionally, which lessens the risks, according to Thompson. "Say you just have to have it but are afraid of gum recession. You could wear it a couple of days, and take it out for a few weeks," he says. "You don’t have to wear it all the time once it heals; you can actually remove it." The moral of the story: With It Girl status comes great responsibility. The Smiley is a great alternative for those who would rather not risk losing their conservative job or be voted out of their family for any kind of always-visible face jewelry. Or, for those who "just can't" with septum piercings anymore. Smith recognizes that the Smiley is definitely not for everyone, but, when done right, it can be a delight. "If it’s done right, it looks delicate — it looks beautiful. It doesn’t have to be some gross-ass oral piercing," he says. And remember how meh we all were when septum piercings first came on the scene (again)? "I remember when I started pushing septum piercings, it was the same... People were like ‘oh, it’s so aggressive,'" he says. "And now, how many people do you know with their septum pierced?" The man’s got a point. Either way, like most decisions in life, you should mull over the pros and cons before you make the leap and get pierced. We're sure both your dentist and your parents would appreciate it. Opener: Photo: Sam Polcer/The New York Times/Redux.