Fissured Tongue: Causes and Treatments


In most cases cracks in the tongue appear down the center with smaller cracks off the sides, but the appearance of a cracking tongue will vary based on the underlying cause. The cracks may also vary in depth or develop grooves. In general, a fissured tongue is not painful, but acidic, hot or spicy foods may irritate the tongue, causing it to burn or develop a pins and needles sensation.

Signs and Symptoms of Cracked Tongue

If you have fissured tongue you will notice cracks appearing on your tongue that might be accompanied by grooves, irritation, mouth sores or pain. The cracks should only appear on your tongue rather than on the cheeks or gums. These cracks may also vary in appearance. They may connect in a grooved pattern, separating the tongue into sections and can become as deep as 6 millimeters. Your tongue may become increasingly sensitive to spicy foods and burn when you consume these items. You may also find that food get stuck in these cracks, causing bad breath and increasing your risk of developing a bacterial or fungal infection in your mouth.

Around 2-5 percent of the population in the United States has fissured tongue. For some, cracks on the tongue will develop during childhood, but in most cases you will not develop cracks on the tongue until you are an adult. Most people discover they have a cracking tongue because their dentist notices this development during your regular checkups. These cracks will continually become more pronounced as you get older.

Causes of Cracked Tongue

  • Injury or Trauma. Your tongue may develop fissures if you are constantly brushing the lateral borders or dorsal surface of the tongue. Eating or exposure to a broken tooth may also cause constant friction on the tongue that could cause cracking for fissures.
  • Hereditary Cause. Some theorize that hereditary conditions make some people more prone to cracking of the tongue, but this theory is not backed by adequate study.
  • Tongue Abnormalities. Geographic tongue, a condition that causes the filiform papillae of the tongue to disappear and create bald patches can also increase your risk of developing cracks on the tongue. Hairy tongue, a condition that causes keratinization and overgrowth on the filiform papillae can cause staining on the tongue that may be mistaken for cracks in the tongue.
  • Biotin Deficiency. Biotin is in the B vitamin family and is commonly used by the body to energize the metabolism and synthesize fat. If you have a biotin deficiency it can cause muscle pain, gray skin, paleness, dry skin and fatigue in addition to increasing your risk of a cracking tongue. Your doctor can help to confirm this diagnosis. If you are suffering from a biotin deficiency you can increase your intake of cauliflower, egg yolks, chicken and mushrooms to correct it.
  • Sjogern’s Syndrome. This disorder causes the body to attack its own moisture producing glands which can lead to fatigue, joint pain, dry mouth, itching and burning eyes or cracked tongue. The ultimate cause of this condition is unknown but it is suspected that environmental factors and genetics play a role. Viral or bacterial infections may also increase your risk of developing Sjogren’s syndrome. You cannot cure this condition once it develops but artificial tears and saliva stimulants can help to control the symptoms.
  • Other Causes. Constantly eating spicy food, exposure to stress or grinding your teeth can lead to cracking of the tongue. Oral thrush, a yeast infection in the mouth that often accompanies a weakened immune system, can also increase your risk of cracking tongue. In some cases, conditions may cause bumps on the tongue or swelling that can be mistaken for a cracking tongue.

Treatments for Cracked Tongue

  • Leave it Alone. Most cases do not require any treatment, particularly if this is not causing any discomfort.
  • Keep Dental Hygiene. Regularly brushing your tongue or using a tongue cleaner will help you keep food out of these cracks so microorganisms do not grow and cause an infection.
  • Stopping Pain. If it is causing you pain there are a few things you can do to manage your discomfort. Keep your tongue hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Some have found that spearmint can help to heal cracks in the tongue and neutralize the pain. If consuming spicy foods causes your cracked tongue to burn, place a bit of baking soda on the uncomfortable area.
  • See a Doctor. If the cracks on your tongue are causing you discomfort than you should talk to your dentist to ensure to determine if there is a way to control this discomfort. You should also speak to your doctor if it appears that the cracks on your tongue have begun to swell because this could be a sign of a more serious ailment like tongue cancer.