The lingual nerve is located within the tongue's bulk, near its sides (specifically below the lateral pterygoid muscle), and is responsible for its senses of taste and touch. A lingual tonsillectomy, an operation to remove extra tonsil tissue, or lingual tonsils, from the back of the tongue is designed to enlarge the airway to assist with breathing; however, such an operation may damage the lingual nerve, causing the tongue to tingle or feel numb. Certain dental procedures, especially local anaesthetic, can also damage the lingual nerve. The lingual nerve provides senses to the tongue's anterior two-thirds, as well as to the sublingual region surrounding it. It branches off the mandibular nerve and twists around the submandibular duct to reach the tongue. The facial nerve's chorda tympani is one of the nerve fibers the lingual nerve carries to the skull, a process by which the lingual nerve allows taste to be transmitted to the brain. In turn, this information is returned to the anterior two-thirds of the tongue.
Written and medically reviewed by the Healthline Editorial Team
In Depth: Lingual nerve