If you’ve ever seen someone with a barbell piercing through their tongue, you may have wondered – what is the purpose of a tongue ring? Tongue piercings have become an increasingly popular form of body modification over the past couple of decades.

But besides being a fashion statement, what practical uses does a tongue ring serve?

In short, tongue rings allow the wearer to enhance sensation during kissing and certain intimate acts. But there’s much more to uncover about these unique piercings. Read on as we explore the origins, symbolic meanings, and functional uses of tongue rings.

History and Origins of Tongue Piercings

Tongue Piercings in Ancient Rituals

Tongue piercings may seem like a modern trend, but they actually have a rich history dating back thousands of years. One of the earliest recorded instances of tongue piercings can be found in ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures.

These civilizations believed that by piercing the tongue, they could communicate with the gods and access higher realms of consciousness. Tongue piercings were also used in other ancient cultures such as the Sumerians and Egyptians, where they were believed to have protective and healing properties.

In ancient rituals, the tongue piercing was often performed using natural materials such as bone or wood. The piercing was seen as a rite of passage and a symbol of strength and bravery. It was believed that the pain endured during the piercing process would make the person more resilient and spiritually connected.

Modern Popularity in the 1990s

While tongue piercings have a long history, they gained mainstream popularity in the 1990s. This was largely due to the influence of popular culture icons such as musicians and celebrities who started sporting tongue piercings.

The trend quickly caught on, and tongue piercings became a fashionable form of self-expression.

The surge in popularity during the 1990s led to an increase in tongue piercing studios and professional piercers. This also brought about improvements in the jewelry used for tongue piercings, with the introduction of surgical-grade stainless steel and other hypoallergenic materials.

Today, tongue piercings are still widely popular and continue to be a popular choice for those seeking a unique and edgy form of body modification.

Symbolic Meanings of Tongue Rings

Self-Expression and Rebellion

Tongue rings have long been associated with self-expression and rebellion. People who choose to get a tongue piercing often see it as a way to showcase their individuality and unique style. The tongue is considered a bold and daring place to get pierced, indicating a willingness to push boundaries and challenge societal norms.

It can be seen as a form of body art that allows individuals to express themselves in a way that is visible, yet easily hidden if desired. Some may choose to get a tongue ring simply because they find it aesthetically pleasing, while others use it as a way to make a statement and stand out from the crowd.

Rites of Passage and Commitment

In some cultures, getting a tongue ring is seen as a rite of passage or a symbol of commitment. For example, in certain tribes, individuals may receive a tongue piercing as part of a coming-of-age ceremony or initiation ritual.

This act signifies the transition from childhood to adulthood and represents the individual’s readiness to take on new responsibilities and challenges.

Additionally, tongue rings can also hold symbolic meaning within romantic relationships. Some couples may choose to get matching tongue piercings as a way to symbolize their commitment and connection to each other.

This act can be seen as a physical representation of their bond and a way to express their love and devotion.

Functional Uses of Tongue Rings

Tongue rings, also known as tongue piercings, have gained popularity in recent years, not only for their aesthetic appeal but also for their functional uses. Here are some of the ways in which tongue rings can serve a purpose beyond just being a fashion statement.

Enhanced Sensation and Pleasure

One of the primary functional uses of tongue rings is to enhance sensation and pleasure during oral activities. The tongue is an extremely sensitive organ, and adding a piercing to it can intensify the sensations experienced during kissing, oral sex, and other forms of intimate contact.

The small metal ball or barbell can create a gentle, teasing sensation that can heighten pleasure for both partners involved. According to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, individuals with tongue piercings reported increased sexual satisfaction and arousal levels.

Oral Stimulation and Fetishes

Tongue rings can also be used to explore various oral stimulation techniques and cater to specific fetishes. The addition of a tongue ring can provide an extra element of excitement and novelty for individuals who enjoy experimenting with different sensations.

The unique texture of the piercing can be used to stimulate erogenous zones, such as the nipples or genitals, during foreplay or other intimate activities. This can add a new dimension to sexual exploration and help fulfill certain fetishes or fantasies.

Aesthetic Appeal

While the functional uses of tongue rings often revolve around enhancing pleasure, it’s worth noting that their aesthetic appeal should not be overlooked. Many individuals choose to get tongue piercings simply because they find them visually appealing.

The small, shiny piece of jewelry can add an element of edginess and personal style to one’s overall look. It can also serve as a conversation starter or a way to express one’s individuality and creativity.

It’s important to note that tongue piercings, like any body modification, should be done by a professional piercer to ensure safety and minimize the risk of complications. Additionally, proper aftercare and hygiene are crucial to avoid infection or other issues.

Types of Tongue Bars and Jewelry


Barbells are the most common type of tongue jewelry used for tongue piercings. They consist of a straight bar with a ball on each end. The length of the barbell can vary depending on the thickness of the tongue. It is important to choose the right length to ensure a comfortable fit.

Barbells come in a variety of materials such as surgical steel, titanium, and acrylic. Surgical steel is the most popular choice due to its durability and hypoallergenic properties. Titanium is also a good option for those with sensitive skin as it is lightweight and resistant to corrosion.

When it comes to the decorative part of the barbell, there are endless options to choose from. From colorful beads to gemstones, you can find a design that suits your style and personality. Some people even opt for tongue barbells with unique shapes or designs, like skulls or hearts.

Circular Barbells

Circular barbells, also known as horseshoe barbells, are another popular choice for tongue piercings. As the name suggests, these barbells have a circular shape with two balls or cones on each end.

One of the advantages of circular barbells is that they allow for more movement and flexibility compared to straight barbells. This can be beneficial for those who engage in activities that require a lot of mouth movement, such as playing wind instruments or participating in contact sports.

Similar to straight barbells, circular barbells come in various materials and designs. They can be plain or adorned with decorative beads, gemstones, or charms. Some people even choose to mix and match different colors and styles for a unique and personalized look.

Venom Piercings

Venom piercings, also known as double tongue piercings, involve two separate piercings placed horizontally on the tongue. This creates the illusion of snake fangs, hence the name “venom piercings”.

For venom piercings, two straight barbells or circular barbells are used. The placement and distance between the two piercings can vary depending on personal preference and tongue anatomy.

Due to the nature of venom piercings, it is important to choose jewelry that is long enough to accommodate both piercings comfortably. It is also crucial to properly clean and care for the piercings to avoid any complications or infections.

When choosing tongue bars and jewelry, it is important to consider factors such as material, size, and personal style. It is also recommended to consult with a professional piercer who can provide guidance on the best options for your specific needs and preferences.

Remember to always prioritize safety and hygiene when it comes to tongue piercings.

Aftercare and Health Considerations

Healing Process

After getting a tongue ring, it is important to properly care for the piercing to ensure proper healing. The healing process can vary from person to person, but on average, it can take anywhere from four to eight weeks.

During this time, it is normal to experience some swelling, tenderness, and increased saliva production. It is important to follow the aftercare instructions provided by the piercer to promote healing and minimize the risk of infection.

Oral Hygiene

Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial when you have a tongue ring. Regularly brushing your teeth, including the area around the piercing, is important to prevent plaque buildup and maintain fresh breath.

It is recommended to use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a mild, alcohol-free mouthwash to clean the piercing gently. Avoid using harsh products, such as hydrogen peroxide or alcohol-based mouthwashes, as they can irritate the piercing and delay the healing process.

Remember to rinse your mouth thoroughly after eating or drinking anything other than water to prevent bacteria from accumulating around the piercing.

Risks and Complications

While tongue piercings can be a fashionable and unique way to express oneself, it is essential to be aware of the potential risks and complications. Some common risks include infection, excessive swelling, damage to teeth and gums, and allergic reactions to the jewelry material.

It is crucial to visit a reputable piercer who follows proper sterilization techniques and uses high-quality jewelry to minimize these risks. If you experience any signs of infection, such as severe pain, swelling, or discharge, it is important to seek medical attention promptly.

According to the American Dental Association, tongue piercings can also lead to other oral health problems. The jewelry can cause gum recession, tooth fractures, and even tooth loss if it continuously rubs against the teeth and gums.

Additionally, the presence of a tongue ring can increase the risk of speech impediments and difficulty with activities such as chewing and swallowing.

It is important to weigh the potential risks and complications before getting a tongue ring. Consulting with a dental professional can provide valuable insights and help you make an informed decision about whether a tongue ring is right for you.


While tongue piercings may seem purely decorative, they can serve functional roles and hold deeper symbolic meaning for the wearer. With proper aftercare, tongue rings can be an edgy way to express oneself.

Hopefully this guide has shed light on the history, meanings, and uses of this unique piercing.

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