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Can You Make a Cloverleaf Tongue?

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

You know that childhood friend of yours who could turn their tongue into a lucky three-leaf clover tongue? Well, it turns out he or she is part of an elite group. What makes one a gifted tongue twister? Some once thought genes played a role in rolling one's tongue but actually, language is what really makes a difference.

Tongue Rolling and Your Genes

There are different ways and shapes some people can get their tongues into. They include:

  • Lifting the two sides to form the letter “U”
  • Twisting it upside down over to the left and or to the right
  • Folding the tongue over and or under
  • Creating a cloverleaf tongue or a trefoil tongue

You may be wondering, is the ability to roll one's tongue is a genetic thing? The answer is no, yet there are many schools across the US teaching that it is genetic. Here’s why: In 1940, scientist Alfred Sturtevant conducted a study and claimed that the results favored genetics. However, his study was flawed. For one, some of the kids participating in his study refused to open their mouths. He put them in the “not able to roll their tongues” category. He also noted that some of the kids could roll their tongues, but their parents could not. That fact alone disproves his gene hypothesis. There have been other studies discounting Sturtevant’s findings.

What About the Cloverleaf Tongue?

If you can twist your tongue into a cloverleaf, you are gifted. It is one of the rarest tricks. According to a study published in the journal Dysphagia, 83.7% of the population could roll their tongue. Well, that’s impressive. Now you may be wondering, what percentage of the population can do a clover tongue? According to this study, only 14.7%.

Can You Teach Yourself to Roll Your Tongue?

According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research, the language you speak is a factor in tongue movement and the ability to roll your tongue. The study included 450 medical students in Malaysia. They came from three ethnic groups (Malay, Malaysian Chinese, and Malaysian Indian). They spoke several different languages.

The study found that Malaysian Indians were more versatile with tongue movements than the Malays and the Malaysian Chinese groups. The conclusion reached was that making certain tongue shapes and movements depended on an individual’s language's lingual demands. So a person whose language engaged the most tongue movements had a leg or, in this case, tongue up in being able to learn how to make different shapes.

So what do you think? Are you thinking of taking up tongue-twisting, rolling, cloverleaf making training so you can be the life of the party? Start practicing. If you speak a language that involves many tongue movements, the odds are in your favor!

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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