The term “labret” is used both to refer to a type of body piercing, and to the jewelry used in that piercing. Such piercings are very common in many counterculture groups, especially the gothic community, and they have a long history among Native Americans and other tribal peoples as well. As is the case with any body piercing, you should think carefully about a labret before getting one, and you should research body piercing shops carefully before committing to one.
The root of the word is the Latin word labrum, which means “lip.” Technically, a labret is any type of piercing which involves the lip, although most people use the term specifically to refer to lower lip piercings, particularly those which are closer to the chin. When referring to jewelry, a labret is any type of jewelry designed for use in such a lip piercing.
There are numerous styles of labret, and potential piercees should discuss them with a piercer, as not all styles are suitable for everyone. Most people think of a single stud in the upper chin region when they hear the term “labret,” but this is only the beginning of a myriad of options. A vertical labret, for example, goes through the top of the lower lip, while snakebites are paired labret piercings. A lowbret is located further down the face and closer to the chin.
As with all oral piercings, a labret requires special care and jewelry. It is important to wear suitable jewelry to reduce the risk of damage to the teeth, and to ensure that the jewelry does not become embedded in the lip. Many people wear rings in their labret piercings, although a labret stud can also be used. Labret studs are designed with a wide plate which goes inside the mouth, and a screw-on attachment such as a ball or spike for the outside of the piercing.
Although the labret piercing has become much more common, it is far from socially accepted in many regions. Individuals with these piercings may have difficulty finding employment, and they may also battle with their dentists or doctors when they require medical care. People who are interested in the piercing should be aware of this, and they should also be committed to at least six weeks of healing time before taking the piercing out, to ensure that infection does not settle in.