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Definition of Tongue

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Tongue: A strong muscle that is anchored to the floor of the mouth. The tongue is covered by the lingual membrane, which has special areas to detect different types of tastes. The tongue muscles are attached to the lower jaw and to the hyoid bone, a small, U-shaped bone that lies deep in the muscles at the back of the tongue and above the larynx. On the top surface of the tongue are small nodules, called papillae, that give the tongue its rough texture. Between the papillae, at the sides and base of the tongue, are the taste buds, which are small bulb-like structures. The muscle fibers of the tongue are heavily supplied with nerves. Babies have more taste buds than adults, and they have them almost everywhere in the mouth, including the cheeks. The tongue aids in the formation of the sounds of speech and aids in swallowing.

Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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