Five Specific Tongue Movements in a Healthy Population

Kilian D.R. Kappert*, Simone van Dijk, David Wellenstein, Maarten J.A. van Alphen, Rob J.J.H. van Son, Ludi E. Smeele, Alfons J.M. Balm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
49 Downloads (Pure)


The importance of tongue mobility on speech, oral food transport, and swallowing is well recognized. However, whether the individual tongue mobility influences postoperative function in oral cancer treatment remains to be elucidated. This study assesses the ability to perform five tongue movements as rolling, twisting (two sides), folding, and the 'cloverleaf' in a healthy population. Because a tumor in oral cancer patients often restricts the mobility of the tongue, it might be helpful to know if it is possible to recall any of those movements without demonstrating it. Two observers asked 387 Dutch healthy adults if they could perform one of the five specific tongue movements and were subsequently asked to demonstrate the five movements. The distribution in the Dutch population is: rolling: 83.7%, cloverleaf: 14.7%, folding: 27.5%, twisting left: 36.1% and twisting right: 35.6%. The percentage of people that can fold their tongue is almost ten times higher (3% versus 27.5%) than in previous research, and it was found that the ability to roll the tongue is not a prerequisite for folding of the tongue. A relationship between gender or right-handedness and the ability to perform certain tongue movements could not be found. Of the participants, 9.9% and 13.1% incorrectly assumed that they could demonstrate tongue rolling and cloverleaf. Tongue folding and twisting (left or right) were incorrectly assumed in 36.9%, 24.1%, and 25.4% of the cases. Rolling and cloverleaf are preferred for future prediction models because these movements are easy to recall without demonstrating.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
Early online date11 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2020


  • Cloverleaf
  • Tongue cancer
  • Tongue folding
  • Tongue mobility
  • Tongue rolling
  • Tongue twisting


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