Tongue Studs: Choose Wisely

Metal tongue piercings may increase risk of complications associated with oral infection

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Metal oral piercings (as opposed to plastic) may increase the risk of bacterial infection, according to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

In order to determine the infection risks associated with different piercing materials, Ines Kapferer, M.D., and colleagues took bacterial samples from the tongue piercings of 85 participants. Each participant had a piercing with one of four different materials: stainless steel, titanium, or one of two types of plastic.

After collecting microbiologic samples from the piercing studs, researchers did not find elevated levels of the main types of bacteria associated with periodontitis, a kind of oral infection. However, they did find higher levels of 67 bacterial species in samples from stainless steel than those from the two types of plastic.

In addition, the researchers found that approximately 28.8 percent of study participants reported 61 cases of gum recession, while five percent reported tooth chipping.

According to the authors, the study's findings do not suggest that a tongue piercing itself increases the risk of oral infection. However, they do show that studs made of stainless steel have the tendency to develop a bacterial layer, which potentially could increase the risk of complications if the piercing does become infected.

Oral piercings can cause such damage to teeth and gums, difficulty swallowing, and infection. Infections caused by piercings can often be avoided when the piercing recipient practices proper aftercare. However, the choice of jewelry plays an important role in influencing the risk of infection.

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Review Date: 
January 24, 2011
Last Updated:
January 25, 2011