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Metal Tongue Piercings Linked to Raised Infection Risks

llected from the stud, the piercing site and the tongue.

A total of 80 different species of bacteria were collected from the various sites and the tongue harbored most of the bacteria, the researchers reported in the Jan. 18 online edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Eighteen bacterial species were more abundant in the piercing site than on the tongue and six species were more prevalent on studs than the tongue. Eight other species were more plentiful on studs than in piercing sites.

Stainless steel studs were the biggest culprit, accounting for the highest bacteria counts, followed, to a much lesser degree, by titanium studs, the researchers reported. Bacteria found on these metals included those known to cause body-wide infections, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Haemophilus influenza. Both metals had significantly greater bacteria counts than did plastic studs.

Yet, this accumulation of bacteria may not be the biggest worry, said Dr. Valerie Murrah, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "As an oral pathologist, I'm concerned with infections of the tongue," she said, noting the importance of sterile piercing techniques.

Among the 80 study participants, who ranged in age from 16 to 36 years, 23 (29 percent) also reported receding gums and four (5 percent) had at least one chipped tooth. On average, most had had their tongue piercing for five years.

"No matter what material [the stud] is made of, it's going to hit the back of the front teeth," said Dr. Ruchi Nijjar Sahota, a dentist in Fremont, Calif. "Most of the patients I've seen have developed either a gum infection or had some sort of trauma to their teeth because of the tongue ring," said Sahota, who is also a consumer advisor for the American Dental Association.

The American Dental Association currently opposes tongue piercing due to such potential complications, according to their online statement.

Sahota stopped sh

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