Cracks in Tongue - Causes & Treatment for Fissured Tongue
Clinical content featured by Byte is reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to help ensure clinical accuracy.
We follow strict sourcing guidelines and each page contains a full list of sources for complete transparency.
Table of Contents
- Causes of Tongue Crack
- Symptoms & Signs
- Treatment Options
- Preventing Cracked Tongue
- Frequently Asked Questions
According to the American Academy of Oral Medicine, about 5 percent of the U.S. population has cracks in their tongues. These are multiple shallow grooves, commonly known as fissures, that occur on the surface of your tongue.
The number, depth and size of these cracks differs from person to person, and sometimes they can look like a serious condition. Generally, though, it is not.
Doctors and dentists insist that the condition does not pose a health risk and can be controlled by a healthy oral care regimen.
Causes of Tongue Crack
Tongue fissures are a bit of a mystery. Clinicians don’t know definitively what causes them.
One study from 2016 links them to smoking, and others hint at a genetic cause, a condition that is hereditary.
At times, cracks can occur along with other health issues: malnutrition, geographic tongue, Melkersson-Rosenthal Syndrome and pustular psoriasis.
Acid Reflux or General Indigestion
Pustular psoriasis is an inflammatory condition caused by an immune disorder. It affects the skin and joints.
Widespread skin inflammation results in small, white or yellow blisters or pimples. It’s common for someone with tongue cracks to experience these minor infections on their tongue.
Poor Oral Hygiene, Other Causes
Symptoms & Signs
Most of the time, a fissured tongue presents with no symptoms beyond appearance. It is usually painless and it does not bleed or drain.
The most obvious sign, of course, are the cracks themselves. Cracks can vary by:
- Direction (horizontal, vertical or branching)
A fissured tongue in most cases appears as though the tongue is split. Multiple fissures may appear on the tongue surface and subjects may have significant cracks that are visible. The mid part of your tongue is commonly affected, but this concern may also be evident in other parts.
Treatments for Tongue Cracks
No strict medical treatment is necessary for tongue cracks because they are rarely a health risk.
However, clinicians recommend the starting point for treatment be a regular and sound oral hygiene. Among the suggestions:
Make sure to clean the top surface of your tongue meticulously using a toothbrush to remove food debris from the fissures. This prevents lesions that cause more irritation and discomfort. (It also is recommended to prevent cavities.)
Use a well-reviewed toothbrush—and one that works for you. Some people can handle medium and hard bristles, while others must stick to soft bristles.
Dentists often recommend electric toothbrushes for a consistent cleaning.
Reach out to your dentist to help you find the dental care products that are best suited for you.
Preventing Future Cracked Tongue Issues
Here are ways to help prevent the development of a cracked tongue:
- Eat a balanced diet. That means a mix of proteins, vegetables, grain, fruits and nuts. Foods that have vitamins, zinc and iron will help you improve your oral health.
- Practice good oral hygiene. Taking time to clean your teeth, gums and tongue will go a long way toward improving your oral hygiene. Dentists recommend spending at least two minutes twice a day brushing your teeth.
- Scrape your tongue. This helps small particles of food from collecting in your mouth, which can lead to excess growth of bacteria.
- Avoid spicy foods and drinks. This is especially true if you already know that you’re prone to developing a cracked tongue.
- Eat cooler. If you are served a meal that is piping hot, let it cool down before you dig in.
If you experience tongue fissures accompanied by lesions (painful or not), discuss them with your dentist or primary care physician. One or both can help you understand the underlying cause, provide a detailed treatment plan, and help you find relief.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can dehydration cause a cracked tongue?
How long does it take to heal?
Fissured Tongue. (May 13, 2015). American Academy of Oral Medicine (AOOM).
Fissured Tongue. (June 2005) Vanessa Ngan, DermNet NZ.
Effects of Tongue Cleaning on Bacterial Flora in Tongue Coating and Dental Plaque: A Crossover Study. (January 14, 2014). BMC Oral Health.
Newer Classification System for Fissured Tongue: An Epidemiological Approach. (September 20, 2015). Journal of Tropical Medicine.
Predictive Value of Fissured Tongue in Functional Dyspepsia Combined with Depression. (June 17, 2019). Gastroenterology Research and Practice.