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Metal Tongue Piercings Linked to Raised Infection Risks
Date:1/19/2011

By Charnicia Huggins
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- If you're considering tongue piercing as a form of self-expression, know that new research suggests that whether the stud used is metal or plastic makes a difference when it comes to chances of infection.

Stainless steel studs may collect more bacteria than plastic studs, potentially increasing the risk of infection and other complications, a team of European researchers reports.

"Consumers should avoid stainless steel and titanium studs in favor of [plastic], 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," study author Dr. Ines Kapferer, of Innsbruck Medical University in Austria, said in a statement.

Tooth chipping and receding gums, as well as gum disease, are some of the long-term complications associated with tongue piercing, prior research shows. Early complications include pain, swelling, prolonged bleeding and swallowing difficulties. What's more, the mouth contains so many bacteria that the piercing procedure itself may increase the risk of infection, one of the most common piercing complications.

One source of infection may be thin layers of bacteria, called biofilms, that coat piercings and act as a reservoir for germs, according to Kapferer and colleagues. They speculated that using piercing materials that were less susceptible to biofilm accumulation may reduce infection risk. To test their theory, the study authors recruited male and female students throughout Innsbruck whose tongues had been pierced for at least six months.

After conducting dental exams, the researchers randomly replaced the students' studs with one of four common piercing materials: stainless steel, titanium, or one of two types of plastic. The studs were removed after two weeks and microbiological samples were co
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