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The Lingual Artery: The Tongue's Blood Supplier

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Have you ever bitten or cut your tongue? If yes, then you might have been surprised to have found blood in your mouth. Your tongue is connected to a rich blood supply. Where does this blood come from? The blood supply of the tongue comes from a blood vessel known as the lingual artery. Read on to find out what the lingual artery is and why it's essential.

What Is the Lingual Artery?

The lingual artery supplies blood to the tongue as well as the floor of the mouth. It's a major branch of the external carotid artery (blood vessels that supply blood to the brain, neck, and face). As your lingual artery moves to the tip of your tongue, it branches out to supply blood to adjacent tissues. The four branches of the lingual artery are:

  • Suprahyoid artery. The first branch of the lingual artery courses alongside the hyoid bone (the U-shaped bone in the neck that supports the tongue), supplying blood to the muscles that support this bone.
  • Dorsal lingual artery. This is the next branch of the lingual artery, located at the back of the tongue. It supplies blood to the posterior portion of the tongue, palatoglossal arch, tonsils, soft palate, and epiglottis.
  • Sublingual artery. This branch passes forward through the tongue and supplies the sublingual gland (a major salivary gland in the floor of the mouth), the oral mucosa (the mucous membrane lining the inside of the mouth), the gums, the mylohyoid muscle (the muscle forming the floor of the oral cavity) and the mandible.
  • Deep lingual artery. This is the terminal branch of the lingual artery. This blood vessel is located under the tongue and supplies blood to the body and the tip of the tongue.

Can My Lingual Artery Be Affected during Medical Procedures?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Since this artery supplies blood to many tissues inside of the mouth, it can be affected during medical procedures like surgeries. Some of these procedures are:

  • Implant placement surgeries. The International Congress of Oral Implantologists notes that in rare cases, the proximity of the lingual artery to the lingual cortex can cause complications like severe hemorrhage and resulting hematomas during implant surgeries. In such cases, you should seek medical attention immediately.
  • Glossectomy. To treat tumors on the tongue, a surgery known as glossectomy is often required. It involves the removal of part or all of the tongue. The Canadian Cancer Society notes that sometimes only a small part of the tongue may be removed, while in other cases, a larger portion of the tongue is removed. Removal of part of the tongue can affect blood flow. Don't hesitate to talk to your surgeon about how blood flow to the tongue will be addressed.

The tongue is a vital organ, and it has a rich blood supply, all thanks to your lingual artery. If you're undergoing any procedure in the oral cavity, you might worry about the health of your lingual artery. But don't worry; all medical professionals know how to minimize any risk of complications and welcome any questions or concerns that you may have!

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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