Choose your stud wisely

Ha!  Made ya look.

Not that kind of stud, people – let’s try to keep our minds out of the gutter for at least one post, here. 

No, I’m talking about tongue studs.  Piercings.  Those little metal spikes that some people (of questionable sanity, IMO) actually voluntarily allow someone to poke through their tongue.  Man… just thinking about it makes my tongue hurt.

A new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health showed that out of the four most commonly used piercing materials – stainless steel, titanium, polytetrafluoroethylene and polypropylene – stainless steel had significantly more bacteria crawling around on it than the other three materials.  Researchers studied 85 people who randomly received a sterile tongue piercing with one of the four materials. 

To be fair, the researchers found that bacterial counts were pretty low for all of the materials tested and no one in the study got an infection from the piercing, so it’s safe to conclude that getting your tongue pierced under proper sterile conditions doesn’t put you at too much risk for getting a mouth infection.  But it’s probably a good idea to avoid stainless steel studs just in case because when infections do occur, they can get pretty nasty.

Even though the risk of infection wasn’t too bad, there are other problems to think of.  5% of the people in the study had chipped teeth from the piercings and about 29% had lingual recessions, or receding gums.  Both of these situations can lead to more serious problems.

If you do decide to get your tongue pierced, don’t try to do it yourself.  And make sure you go to a place that uses proper sterile procedures.  And if you are having any problems from a piercing – chipped teeth, bleeding, nasty drainage, bad taste in your mouth, swelling or pain – come in and see one of our dentists so they can make sure everything’s OK.

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

Kapferer I, et al “Tongue piercing: The impact of material on microbiological findings” J Adolesc Health 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.10.008.