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A fissured tongue has one or more noticeable grooves or furrows on its top surface or sides. The fissures can be shallow or deep, and most occur near the middle of the tongue.
Also known as a plicated or scrotal tongue, fissured tongue is a common condition. About 5% of the U.S. population has a fissured tongue, and some scientists believe it’s just a variation of a normal tongue.1
For many people, fissured tongue develops during childhood. In most cases, these original fissures get deeper with age. Fissures become increasingly common with age, especially when dry mouth is a problem.
Fissured tongue is a benign condition, meaning it’s neither harmful nor painful. However, it can be a symptom of an underlying problem. Speak to your dentist or doctor if you notice any tongue changes.
Non-fissured tongues are covered in small bumps (papillae) but are relatively flat. A fissured tongue surface has deep grooves, cracks, and crevices. The center ⅓ of the tongue is most commonly affected.
Characteristics of a fissured tongue include:
If food debris gets trapped in the fissures, you may experience bad breath (halitosis). Proper oral hygiene can prevent this. Otherwise, fissured tongue is an asymptomatic condition.
Geographic tongue is a harmless condition that causes red patches on the top and sides of your tongue. Also called benign migratory glossitis, this condition is so-named because the patches can look like a map.
Fissured tongue and geographic tongue often occur together and may be related.1 Signs and symptoms of geographic tongue include:
Fissures can vary widely in number, length, or depth.
The exact cause of fissured tongue is unknown. Research suggests it’s a normal tongue variant that may have a genetic correlation.1
Anyone can get fissured tongue, but it’s more common among males.1 It may be present at birth or develop later in life. Older adults with dry mouth often have more prominent fissures.
Fissured tongue may be related to another underlying condition, such as:
Rarely, fissured tongue can be related to:
Most people with fissured tongues don’t experience symptoms. Unless you’re experiencing pain, it may not be necessary to see a dentist for this condition.
However, you should see your dentist twice a year for routine visits and professional cleanings with a dental hygienist. Maintaining a good oral care routine can help prevent bad breath that may result from the accumulation of food debris in fissures.
Most people receive a diagnosis of a fissured tongue during a routine dental exam. Your dentist will examine your tongue and ask about any symptoms. They may recommend additional testing if the fissures are related to an underlying condition.
Specific treatments to fix the problem usually aren’t needed. However, you can do several things to prevent bad breath and dry mouth associated with fissured tongue, such as:
Dietary changes can also help, especially if your tongue feels irritated or hurts. Acidic, salty, hot, and spicy foods cause the most problems.
If a cracked tongue is caused by vitamin deficiencies, evaluate your diet and consider taking supplements.
Fissured tongue is a benign condition that’s typically asymptomatic. It’s considered to be a variant of normal tongue structure.
Good oral hygiene and routine dental care can help prevent bad breath and pain that may occur if food debris builds up in the fissures.
Fissured tongue involves deep grooves or crevices on the top or sides of the tongue. There can be one fissure or many. Fissures are usually asymptomatic unless food debris accumulates and causes bad breath or discomfort.
Fissured tongue is also known as scrotal or plicated tongue. It’s not the same as geographic tongue, although these common conditions often occur together.
Treatment may not be necessary. However, routine dental exams and teeth cleanings can keep bad breath at bay.
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