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Intrinsic & Extrinsic Muscles of the Tongue

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  • 0:04 A Mouth Full of Muscles
  • 1:11 Intrinsic Muscles of…
  • 1:51 Extrinsic Muscles of…
  • 2:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

The tongue is an important organ of the body, an organ that allows you chew, swallow, and talk. This lesson covers the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the tongue, which are the muscles that enable this organ to perform these functions.

A Mouth Full of Muscles

Imagine a life in which you are unable to eat your favorite foods, drink your favorite drinks, or talk to your friends and family. This hypothetical nightmare would be a reality without your tongue. Just imagine not being able to taste chocolate or ice-cream! Your tongue is responsible for so many different functions. These functions include:

  • Chewing: The tongue helps to move food around in your mouth so that you may chew your food properly.
  • Swallowing: The tongue moves in specific ways in order to allow you to swallow your foods and drinks.
  • Tasting: The tongue is home to millions of taste buds that allow you to taste delicious foods.
  • Talking: Each sound that you make while you talk requires different movements of the tongue.

These actions and functions of the tongue are caused by the various muscles associated with the tongue, except for tasting, which is not a direct function of the muscles of the tongue, but is rather a function of the taste buds on the tongue. The muscles of the tongue are divided into two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic muscles.

Intrinsic Muscles of the Tongue

The intrinsic muscles of the tongue are muscles that are located only in the tongue. These muscles do not originate or insert outside of the tongue. Since the intrinsic muscles are located inside the tongue, these muscles function to change the actual shape of the tongue. The intrinsic muscles and their actions include:

Intrinsic Muscle Action of Muscle
Transverse muscle Lengthens and protrudes the tongue
Vertical muscle Flattens and widens the tongue
Superior longitudinal muscle Elevates the apex (tip) and sides of the tongue
Inferior longitudinal muscle Depresses the apex and sides of the tongue

Extrinsic Muscles of the Tongue

The extrinsic muscles of the tongue originate from outside the tongue and then insert onto the tongue. Rather than change the actual shape of the tongue as intrinsic muscles do, extrinsic muscles function to move the tongue around in the mouth. The extrinsic muscles and their actions include:

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