Metal jewelry more likely to cause infection with tongue piercing

Jan 04, 2011 By Carl Sherman

A stud or ring in their tongue might be an essential fashion accessory for many young adults, but piercing comes at the cost of medical risks, including infection.

The material that tongue jewelry is made of might make a difference, according to a study in the , which suggests that stainless steel studs are far more welcoming to than those composed of plastics like Teflon.

In particular, the germs that cause can cover metal, but not plastic, studs, the researchers found.

“Consumers should avoid stainless steel and titanium studs in favor of polytetrafluorethylene or polypropylene, not only because of bacteria and a potentially higher risk of local infection of the piercing channel, but also because of the risk of tooth chipping and gum recession,” said lead author Ines Kapferer, M.D., of Innsbruck Medical University, in Austria.

She and her colleagues replaced the tongue piercings of 68 women and 12 men, whose average age was about 23, with sterile studs of four different materials: stainless steel, titanium and two forms of plastic.

When they removed and examined the studs two weeks later, the researchers found significantly higher concentrations of bacteria on steel piercings than on those made with the synthetic materials. Among the germs found more abundantly on metal studs were staphylococcus, streptococcus and pseudomonas — all commonly associated with oral and body-wide infections.

The researchers speculated that a “biofilm” of sticks more readily to stainless steel than to plastic.

Infections and other complications in people with pierced tongues are not uncommon, said Chicago periodontist Robert Pick, D.D.S., a clinical associate professor of surgery at Northwestern University and spokesperson for the American Dental Association.

“Not a month goes by that I don’t see a tongue piercing that I have to take out because of an infection that’s off the charts, or because it has stripped the gum away from behind the lower front teeth,” Pick said.

Normally, skin fills in to line the piercing channel, but if it doesn’t, “there’s an opening down into the muscle and deeper parts of the tongue,” Pick said, “It’s just a cesspool for bacteria.”

Serious infections — he sees an average of two per month — can develop within weeks of piercing, or years later, he said.

Explore further: Oil-swishing craze: Snake oil or all-purpose remedy?

More information: Kapferer I, Beier US, Persson RG. Tongue piercing: the impact of material on microbiological findings. J Adol Health online, 2011.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists trick bacteria with small molecules

Oct 07, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A team of Yale University scientists has engineered the cell wall of the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, tricking it into incorporating foreign small molecules and embedding them within the ...

More ear infections in teens with smoker at home

Dec 07, 2010

Family members who smoke are more apt to feel it is OK to smoke indoors as their children get older. But in households with secondhand smoke, children between 12 and 17 are 1.67 times more prone to have recurrent ...

Modern society made up of all types

Nov 04, 2010

Modern society has an intense interest in classifying people into ‘types’, according to a University of Melbourne Cultural Historian, leading to potentially catastrophic life-changing outcomes for those typed – ...

Fern's hunger-busting properties supported by research

Nov 15, 2010

Professor Roger Lentle, from the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health at the Massey University, led a team that studied how an extract of the mamaku fern influenced stomach activity. Maori traditionally ...

Recommended for you

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury (Update)

Apr 18, 2014

About half of all 16- to 18-year-olds coming into New York City's jails say they had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated, most caused by assaults, according to a new study that's the latest in a growing body ...

Autonomy and relationships among 'good life' goals

Apr 18, 2014

Young adults with Down syndrome have a strong desire to be self-sufficient by living independently and having a job, according to a study into the meaning of wellbeing among young people affected by the disorder.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.