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Steel tongue studs may have added risk

Not only do oral piercings offer dangers like chipped and fractured teeth, damage to the gums, periodontal disease and problems with speech, swallowing and chewing, the studs themselves could be harboring oral biofilm—increasing risks for infection.

Researchers in Austria studied 85 people with tongue piercings. After examining the participants’ oral health, they randomly assigned each participant with sterile studs made from four different materials: stainless steel, titanium and two kinds of plastic. Participants were examined again after two weeks.

Scientists found that although the participants’ piercing channels had low bacterial counts, studs made of steel seemed to promote development of a biofilm—a thin layer of microorganisms that adhere to the surface of a structure. Types of bacteria associated with staph infections were found on the steel and titanium studs, leading researchers to conclude that metal studs increase risks for complications if a piercing channel becomes infected.

The ADA cautions against oral piercings —including those of the tongue, lips, cheeks and uvula— because they can interfere with speech, chewing or swallowing. They can also cause complications like excessive drooling; infection; chipped or cracked teeth; gum injuries; uncontrolled bleeding; damage to fillings; nerve damage; and hypersensitivity to metals. For more information, visit

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