Root of tongue
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The term root of tongue should not be confused with the base of tongue, which is part of the oropharynx and is the posterior third of the tongue, posterior to the circumvallate papillae.
Terminology pertaining to the tongue can be confusing with terms such as mobile tongue, base of tongue, root of tongue, and floor of mouth being used in different ways 1,2. Here is a glossary of terms, along with which space it belongs to.
anterior two-thirds, anterior to the circumvallate papillae
part of oral cavity
posterior one-third, posterior to the circumvallate papillae
part of oropharynx
root of tongue
region deep to the mobile tongue and anterior to the base of the tongue
part of oral cavity, specifically within the floor of mouth 4
The root of tongue includes the lingual septum and bilateral genioglossus and geniohyoid muscles (genioglossus-geniohyoid muscle complex) 1,2.
anterior border: mandible
lateral borders: sublingual space
inferior border: U-shaped mylohyoid muscle under the geniohyoid muscles, the floor of mouth
posterior border: base of tongue
Of note, squamous cell carcinoma does not originate from the root of tongue itself, but rather invades it from adjacent mucosal surfaces of the oral cavity or anterior oropharynx. This is important in staging for oral cavity or oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma 3.
These are multiple entities that may arise from the root of tongue 1.
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- 2. Harnsberger HR. Oral cavity. In: Harnsberger HR, Osborn A, Ross J, et al, eds. Diagnostic and surgical imaging anatomy: brain, head and neck, spine. Salt Lake City, Utah: Amirsys, 2006; 260–287.
- 3. Sigal R, Zagdanski AM, Schwaab G, Bosq J, Auperin A, Laplanche A, Francke JP, Eschwège F, Luboinski B, Vanel D. CT and MR imaging of squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue and floor of the mouth. (1996) Radiographics : a review publication of the Radiological Society of North America, Inc. 16 (4): 787-810. doi:10.1148/radiographics.16.4.8835972 - Pubmed
- 4. Law C, Chandra R, Hoang J, Phal P. Imaging the Oral Cavity: Key Concepts for the Radiologist. Br J Radiol. 2011;84(1006):944-57. doi:10.1259/bjr/70520972 - Pubmed