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Nerve and Blood Supply of the Tongue

The tongue is an organ of the oral cavity, which aids speech, swallowing, mastication, taste and oral clearing.

In this article you can find out how the tongue is innervated by the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which arteries and veins supplyit, together with its musculature.

Recommended video: Neurovasculature of the tongue
Arteries, veins and nerves of the tongue.

Nerve Supply

The tongue is divided into the anterior two thirds and a posterior third when discussing its innervation. It is supplied via sensory and motor pathways to both sections.

Anterior Two-Thirds

The anterior two thirds are innervated by:

Lingual nerve - lateral-left view

Lingual nerve - lateral-left view

Posterior Third

The posterior third is innervated by:

  • Sensory branches of the glossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX), for sensation and taste.
  • Motoric branches of the hypoglossal nerve (CN XII)

Lingual branches of glossopharyngeal nerve - lateral-left view

Lingual branches of glossopharyngeal nerve - lateral-left view

The hypoglossal nerve (CN XII) provides motor innervation to all the extrinsic and intrinsic muscles of the tongue except the palatoglossus muscle which is innervated by the vagus nerve (CN X).

Arterial Blood Supply

The path of the arterial blood supply for the tongue is as follows (from source to destination):

  1. Heart - aorta
  2. Aortic arch
  3. Left side: Common carotid artery, Right side: Brachiocephalic trunk and Common carotid artery
  4. External carotid artery
  5. Lingual artery - Enters the tongue deep to the hyoglossus muscle

Lingual artery - lateral-left view

Lingual artery - lateral-left view

Venous Drainage

The path of the venous drainage of the blood supply for the tongue continues in a loop form from the organ, back to the heart (from destination back to source):

  1. Tongue musculature
  2. Dorsal and deep lingual veins
  3. Right and left internal jugular veins
  4. Right and left brachiocephalic veins
  5. Superior vena cava - heart

Deep lingual vein - lateral-left view

Deep lingual vein - lateral-left view


Nerve supply

  • Anterior two thirds - lingual nerve, chorda tympani, and hypoglossal nerve
  • Posterior third - glossopharyngeal nerve, hypoglossal nerve

Arterial blood supply

  • Lingual artery

Venous drainage

  • Dorsal lingual vein
  • Deep lingual vein
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Show references


  • Luke Cascarini, Clare Schilling, Ben Gurney, Peter Brennan: Oxford Handbook of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, 1st Edition, Oxford, Chapter 2, Pg. 14
  • Frank H. Netter MD: Atlas of Human Anatomy, 4th Edition, Saunders, Chapter 1 and 3, Plates 70, 71, 136, 137, 231


  • Dr. Alexandra Sieroslawska


  • Lingual nerve - lateral-left view - Paul Kim
  • Lingual branches of glossopharyngeal nerve - lateral-left view - Paul Kim
  • Lingual artery - lateral-left view - Begoña Rodriguez
  • Deep lingual vein - lateral-left view - Begoña Rodriguez
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Related Atlas Images

Neurovasculature of the tongue

Muscles of the tongue

Structure of the tongue

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