Can Your Tongue Die?

This blog post will answer the question, ”Can your tongue die?” and cover topics like tongue bite, chances of dying by biting your own tongue, condition of tongue after death and tongue swallowing. The article also outlines the dangers of tongue piercing and some tongue abnormalities.

Can Your Tongue Die?

No, it is not possible for your tongue to die as it is highly vascular and can self-heal very quickly. However, there is no proper research in this regard.

Biting off your tongue: How dangerous can it be?

Can a person bite his/her tongue and die?

Yes, it is possible in some cases where tongue bite can damage the lingual artery and bleed or choke the person to death. If not then severe infections and pain can cause discomfort.

Is it difficult to bite off the tongue?

It is difficult to bite off your tongue but it is not impossible. The bite force of human jaw muscle is more than 20kg at the hind molars and more than 8kg on the incisors. Such high force is capable of causing severe damage to the tongue or may bite it off.

What happens when you bite or cut off your tongue?

When you bite or cut off your tongue, it bleeds as the tongue is connected to a rich blood supply from the Lingual Artery.

Lingual Artery supplies blood to the tongue as well as to the mouth floor. After supplying to the tip of the tongue, the lingual artery branches out to supply blood to the surrounding tissues.

Lingual Artery originates from the External Carotid Artery, courses towards hyoid bone and finally loops down towards the tongue. 

Severe injury to the lingual artery, if left untreated, may be fatal. 

Tongue after death

When you die what happens to your tongue?

When you die, your tongue swells and it may or may not pop out of the mouth. The swelling of the tongue is due to the gases produced by the decomposing intestines.

Does tongue stick out of the person’s mouth when they die?

No, in most cases it does not stick out of the dead person’s mouth.

According to a STUDY , 86% of all dead bodies investigated showed no signs of tongue protrusion. The study found that tongue protrusion was more common in hanging, burning, and drowning cases of death. 

Tongue Swallowing: Myth or Reality

Tongue Swallowing: Is it for real?

No, it is not possible to swallow your tongue. This is a fictional tale that you might have heard and believed. Let’s see why it is impossible to swallow your own tongue.

Tongue is a muscular organ comprising eight flexible muscles. It is impossible to swallow your tongue as it is attached via muscles to the mandible, hyoid bone, palate, styloid process and pharynx.

Tongue is also attached to the oral floor by a strip of tissue called Lingual Frenulum making it impossible to swallow your tongue even during seizure when muscle control is lost. 

Tongue Swallowing During Seizure: Is it true?

No, it is not true. During seizure, most people believe to put something in a person’s mouth to prevent swallowing of tongue which is absolutely not true and impossible. 

During seizure, muscle control of the tongue is lost but still a tissue strip called lingual frenulum holds the tongue in its position. 

Lingual frenulum is a strip of tissue that attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth making it impossible to swallow your tongue during seizure. 

During seizure, you must make sure not to put any object in the person’s mouth as it may be dangerous and cause injury to the oral cavity or may choke the person to death.

Tongue Abnormalities

Not all tongues are perfect. There might exist some abnormalities in the tongue that you must be aware of:


Macroglossia as the name suggests refers to abnormal enlargement of the tongue. It may be due to some underlying infection or disorder or may be congenital. 

The size reduces on treating the underlying cause and if congenital may require surgery. Tongue size reduction surgery helps to reduce the size of the tongue back to normal, restoring all its normal functions. 


Microglossia as the name suggests is an extremely rare congenital condition in which the tongue size reduces abnormally. This may cause hindrance with the patient’s normal breathing, eating and speech.


Fissured tongue, also called scrotal tongue, is a condition that affects the tongue’s top surface leading to its wrinkled appearance. 

Fissured tongue is a benign condition that causes deep grooves in the middle of the tongue and thus gives the tongue a wrinkled appearance. 

Bacterial accumulation in the grooves may lead to infections. Therefore, it is recommended to brush your teeth twice and follow good oral hygiene.


This blog post addressed the question, “Can Your Tongue Die?” We understood that tongue biting can cause severe injury and if left untreated may be fatal. The article also outlined some myths associated with tongue swallowing and tongue biting and abnormalities associated with tongue.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Can Your Tongue Die?

Can a person live without a tongue?

Yes, it is possible to live without a tongue. According to a research, you may not need a tongue to taste or speak. Many people lose their tongue partially or completely due to cancer or other surgery and still survive.

Isolated Congenital Aglossia (ICA) is a congenital condition in which the patient is born without a tongue and is asymptomatic otherwise. 

Why does biting your tongue hurt?

Biting your tongue hurts because the tongue is a muscular organ and is packed with nerves and vessels containing thousands of motor units

It is common to bite your tongue accidentally as the tongue shares a common space with the teeth. In some cases the pain is short-lived while in few it requires the attention of a doctor.

Can someone choke on their tongue when asleep?

No, it is not possible to swallow and choke on your tongue while asleep.  Lingual frenulum is a strip of tissue that firmly attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth. This prevents people from accidentally swallowing it. 

Can tongue block your airway?

Yes, your tongue can fall back under certain conditions like unconsciousness and block your airway. The tongue falls back while you are in an unconscious state and the soft palate relaxes, causing your airway to block.

Is your tongue always moving?

Yes, your tongue seems to always move as it is a huge muscle that assists you to talk, taste and also keep itself away from your sharp teeth.  

It is  packed with dense touch receptors that constantly investigates the shape of your mouth and any changes that might have occurred.

Can tongue piercing be fatal?

Tongue piercing can be fatal in very rare cases. The question is heating up, after a 22-year-old Israeli man died in hospital weeks after getting his tongue pierced. 

Tongue piercings can cause potential damage in the oral cavity due to constant contact between metal and the tissues and structures in the mouth. 

Doctors warn that tongue piercings increase the risk of oral infection and if left untreated, may turn fatal. 

Chipped teeth, infections, nerve and gum damage, drooling, taste loss, and tooth loss are some of the adverse effects of tongue piercing. Tooth piercing metal may cause irritation in the oral cavity leading to periodontal disease or oral cancer.

Other FAQs about Tongue Health that you may be interested in.

Why did I wake up with a black tongue?

Can your tongue grow back?

Why do I keep biting my tongue in my sleep?


Bernitz H, van Staden PJ, Rossouw SH, Jordaan J. Tongue position and its relation to the cause of death and sequential stages of body decomposition observed during 608 forensic post-mortems. Int J Legal Med. 2019;133(4):1279-1283. doi:10.1007/s00414-018-1981-7

Stone M, Woo J, Lee J, et al. Structure and variability in human tongue muscle anatomy. Comput Methods Biomech Biomed Eng Imaging Vis. 2018;6(5):499-507. doi:10.1080/21681163.2016.1162752

Jones, J., Fahrenhorst-Jones, T. Lingual artery. Reference article, (accessed on 17 Oct 2021)

Corsalini, Massimo et al. “Temporomandibular disorders in burning mouth syndrome patients: an observational study.” International journal of medical sciences vol. 10,12 1784-9. 29 Oct. 2013, doi:10.7150/ijms.6327

Dotiwala AK, Samra NS. Anatomy, Head and Neck, Tongue. [Updated 2021 Apr 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from:

Tongue Piercing

Elnaggar, Alaa & Azab, Noha. (2018). A case of isolated aglossia. Journal of Oral Medicine and Oral Surgery. 24. 149-150. 10.1051/mbcb/2018014.

Dangers of Tongue Piercing

Tongue Abnormalities, Colgate

Fissured Tongue

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