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Tongue piercing is a body piercing typically done through the center of the tongue. Tongue piercings are second only to ear piercing in American teenagers and young adults, according to dentist Dr. Stephen J. Deneka. While tongue piercing can lead to a variety of health and cosmetic problems, it remains a common and popular cultural practice with a rich history.


According to the website The History Of, piercing was a popular practice for the ancient Romans, signifying virility and strength. Julius Caesar had both nipples pierced to demonstrate his bravery to his army. The ancient Egyptians also practiced body piercing as part of their elaborate cultural adornments. The American Indians used tongue piercing as an act of ritual.

American Culture

Nose piercings first became popular in the United States in the 1960s and ushered in a new era of body piercing in America as a form of self-expression and rebellion. The 1980s saw body piercing evolving as part of the punk movement. Celebrities helped popularize the trend in fashion magazines and movies, according to the website Painful Pleasures.


Tongue piercing is often touted as a sexually stimulating accessory, according to The History Of. Many people claim that it enhances oral sex. Many varieties of tongue rings are available with attachments intended for sexual purposes.

Health Risks

In addition to dental damage, there are many potential health risks associated with tongue piercing including: infection, scarring, cancer, HIV infection risk and hepatitis infection risk, according to the dental website Mercola.com. Many of these risks can be minimized with proper sanitation of the newly pierced tongue.

Dental Damage

Researchers from the Ohio State University College of Dentistry conducted a study of 52 young adults with tongue piercings. The results showed that 35 percent of the subjects had receding gums, as opposed to only 5 percent of their non-tongue-ring-wearing peers. According to the website Tweens and Teens News, chipped teeth is also a concern for those with tongue rings.