Fissured Tongue

What is Fissured Tongue

Fissured tongue can be defined as tongue with cracks and grooves. Medically, fissured tongue is described as multiple small furrows or grooves on the dorsal surface of the tongue.

The grooves or fissures could be deep or shallow, one or more and may occur on any side of the tongue. Nevertheless, most of the fissures occur on the middle 1/3rd of the organ.

The ailment of fissured tongue affects approximately 5% of the US population. The condition is less common in children but as we grow, the chances of having this increases. Men are affected a bit more as compared to their counterpart, the women.

Synonyms of Fissured Tongue

Fissured tongue is also known as

  • Scrotal tongue
  • Plicated tongue
  • Lingua plicata
  • Furrowed tongue

Clinical Features of Fissured Tongue

Below mentioned are the characteristics of fissured tongue.

  • The fissures or grooves affect only tongue and no other structure in the oral cavity
  • Pain and burning sensation in the tongue
  • Cracks, grooves or clefts happen on the top and sides of the tongue
  • The grooves may be shallow or deep as much as 6 mm
  • The fissures may connect with each other making the tongue appearing like divided in lobes or sections
  • Redness of the tongue
  • Difficulty in eating and swallowing
  • Severe burning when food or water put on it

Fissured Tongue Pictures

Fissured Tongue image

Picture : Fissured Tongue photo

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Fissured Tongue

Picture : Fissured Tongue (right side of tongue)

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Fissured Tongue photo


Picture : Fissured Tongue (cracks and groves)

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Fissured Tongue picture

Picture : Fissured Tongue

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Causes of Fissured Tongue

Though the perfect etiology of fissured tongue is not known, here are some predicted causative factors that may give rise to fissured tongue:-

  • Polygenic mode of inheritance is likely to cause fissured tongue
  • Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome
  • Injury to oral cavity or tongue (maybe direct injury or through teeth grinding, tongue biting)
  • Severe alcohol consumption
  • Severe tobacco chewing
  • Eating hard food (such as betel nut) that may injure tongue
  • Down syndrome
  • As in association with benign migratory glossitis (geographic tongue)
  • As in association with granulomatous disease
  • Allergic reaction or oral thrush
  • Injury to the tongue while brushing the teeth or gums
  • Unusual dryness of mouth (as in Sjogren’s Syndrome)
  • Some drug reaction
  • Over body heat

Fissured Tongue Diagnosis

The diagnose is done mainly based on oral examination. The fissured or grooved tongue is easy to identify. The condition is further confirmed as a doctor observes the signs and symptoms and asks the history to the patient. In some rare case, the health care provider may ask for the biopsy taking tongue’s tissue to check the malignancy.

Conditions associated with Fissured Tongue

Nearly 2-5% of the US population is affected by this ailment. Though sure cause factors for fissured tongue are unknown there are some conditions associated with this ailment. They are mentioned below

Downs syndrome: Almost 8 out of 10 children with chromosomal disorder (trisomy) have fissured tongue. Down syndrome is one of the commonest condition associated with tongue problems.

Geographic tongue: This condition is also referred to as BMG (Benign Migratory Glossitis). Although there are no symptoms other than burning and pain in the tongue while eating spicy and hot foods.

Melkersson-Rosenthal Syndrome: Quite rare condition though, Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome is another condition associated with fissured tongue. Nevertheless, this may also show the symptoms of swelling in lips and face and Bell’s Palsy (paralysis of the face-partially or completely)

Treatment and Cure

The treatment of fissured tongue depends on the causative factors. If it is due to infection or injury, healing is done by prescribing antibiotics and topical soothing creams. Keeping oral hygiene is must to cure fissured tongue. Removal of debris from the fissures and grooves is must to prevent further worsening of the condition.

Hydration of the tongue is important to cure fissured tongue. Plain water drinking is the best remedy for fissured tongue. About other treatments for this ailment, it is observed that while some prefer spearmint, natural healers advise keeping baking soda gargling to heal the wounds faster.  Cleaning the tongue with soft brush or gently swiping of tongue-cleaner is advised.

Also see : Inflamed (Enlarged) Taste Buds – Pictures and Treatment and Why is my tongue itchy and how to get rid of ?



  3. James, William D.; Berger, Timothy G.; et al. (2006). Andrews’ Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. Saunders Elsevier.
  5. Oral and maxillofacial medicine: the basis of diagnosis and treatment (2nd edition)

Published by Dr. Raj MD under Diseases and Conditions.
Article was last reviewed on August 6th, 2018.

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