The purpose of this study was to measure and compare the tonic electromyographic (EMG) activity of the temporalis and masseter muscles following placement of the tongue either on the palate or in the floor of the mouth during swallowing and maximal voluntary clenching (MVC). Thirty healthy dental students with natural dentition and bilateral molar support, between the ages of 18 and 22, with no prior history of oro-facial injury, or current or past pain in the jaw, mouth or tongue participated in the study. Tonic masseter and temporalis EMG activities were recorded using surface electrodes. Subjects were instructed to passively place the tongue either on the anterior hard palate or in the floor of the mouth during swallowing and MVC. At each tongue position, the resulting EMG was recorded. During swallowing, no significant difference in EMG activity was found either for the masseter (P-value = 0·1592) or the temporalis (P-value = 0·0546) muscles, regardless of the tongue position. During MVC, there was a statistically significant difference for both the masseter (P-value = 0·0016) and the temporalis (P-value = 0·0277) muscles with lower levels recorded with the tongue in the floor of the mouth. This study found that in normal, pain-free subjects, placing the tongue in the floor of the mouth significantly reduces masticatory muscle activity during MVC. Thus, it may be considered as a possible therapeutic option to decrease masticatory muscle activity; however, further research is needed in patients with oro-facial pain.