Cracked Tongue: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Cracked Tongue

Cracked tongue is a condition in which the top visible surface of your tongue gets cracks or fissures.

These tongue cracks might go unnoticed because of their benign effects, but they change the tongue appearance. In some cases, the cracks may cause burning sensation while consuming specific food type or may leave you tasteless too.

Your cracked tongue may be telling about the medical history of your body. The reasons may vary such as bacterial infection, genetic disorder or a heredity trend in the family. This article discusses different factors associated with the cracked tongue.

Also Read: What Causes White Spots on Tonsils?

Signs and Symptoms of a Cracked Tongue

Identifying a Cracked Tongue

  • Crack in the middle of the tongue and some more cracks coming out from it
  • Sometimes the cracks are found randomly and may occur at the side edges of the tongue
  • These cracks or fissures are found only on the tongue and not in any other oral parts
  • Tongue fissure can vary in length from a shallow to a few millimeters deep
  • The fissures may connect and divide the tongue in regions
  • The fissured tongue may appear red

Cracked Tongue Symptoms

  • In some cases, tongue fissures do not cause any pain and go unnoticed.
  • Tongue fissure can be sensitive to spicy food and cause pain or burning sensation while eating.
  • Fissured tongue can also cause irritation, mouth sores or pain.
  • Deep tongue fissures can trap food particles and make the tongue susceptible to microbial infection.
  • Due to infection, the breadth becomes smelly.

A sensitive fissured tongue can cause difficulty in eating and swallowing.

Causes of a Cracked or Fissured Tongue

The exact cause of a cracked tongue is unknown. However, there are many identified causes which we have discussed below.

1. Tongue Abnormality

A normal tongue has a cover of tiny, pinkish white papillae. In geographic tongue, the patches of cracked tongue are missing these papillae making flat patches. These patches can be sensitive to spicy or hot food and drinks.

Individuals with hairy tongue may notice keratinization and overgrowth of the papillae. It can cause staining on the tongue that may be mistaken for cracks in the tongue.

2. Hereditary Causes

Studies estimate that about 2 to 5 percent of the United States population has the cracked tongue (1). Some observations include childhood development, whereas other observations include no development of cracked tongue until adulthood.

Some derived theories propose that hereditary conditions make some people more prone to cracking of the tongue. We will keep adding more in this following the ongoing studies (2).

3. Sjogren’s Syndrome

Sjogren’s Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder wherein the body attacks its tear and salivary glands. The symptoms are burning eyes, dry mouth, and cracked tongue. Sjogren’s Syndrom can be caused or exaggerated by environmental factors, genetics and an existing viral or bacterial infection in your body.

4. Melkersson-Rosenthal Syndrome

It is a neurological disorder wherein one shows symptoms like swelling of the lips, cheeks, eyelids and rarely of the scalp. Due to the facial paralysis, the salivary glands are impaired, and you may develop a cracked or fissured tongue.

Down syndrome

Down syndrome is a chromosomal disorder which results in intellectual disability and developmental delays. It has been noted that about 80% of children with Down’s syndrome have fissured tongues.

5. Biotin Deficiency

Deficiency of Biotin, a Vit- B family vitamin can cause muscle pain, dry skin, fatigue and increases the risk of developing a cracked or fissured tongue. Biotin can be replenished by increased intake of cauliflower, egg yolks, mushrooms, and chicken. Consult your physician to determine the proper diagnosis.

6. Injury or Trauma

If you have a broken tooth and your tongue is feeling constant friction with it, you may develop a cracked tongue. Also, if you are constantly rubbing or brushing the top surface of your tongue, you may develop fissures on the tongue.

7. Other Causes

The chances of getting a cracked or fissured tongue increases if you regularly eat spicy food. The habit of grinding your teeth while stressed or unconscious can also result in cracked tongue. Moreover, if you have a weakened immune system, it may lead to a condition known as Oral thrush.

In this condition, your mouth has a fungus infection which increases in the cracks of a fissured tongue. The symptoms follow the loss of taste, mild pain and lesions on the tongue or other parts of the oral cavity. A medical prescription of antifungal medications can provide relief.

Cracked Tongue Treatments

In most cases cracked tongues heal on their own. However, you should seek professional medical help or try home remedies to alleviate the pain. After the confirmed diagnosis, the treatments below can be helpful.

1. Maintain Dental Hygiene

Do brush your teeth regularly and clean your tongue to prevent microbes and food particles to occupy the cracks. It will prevent microbial growth.

Wisely select your toothbrush and toothpaste. A soft bristled toothbrush can be helpful. Switch to the toothpaste that doesn’t irritate the cracked tongue.

2. Drink Plenty of Water

The necessity of water consumption in our body is a very well realized fact. Less water intake may be depriving your tongue of required moisture. A habit of consuming enough fluids and water each day can help relieve the symptoms of cracked tongue.

3. Keep Away from the Irritants

Salty, spicy or acidic foods may aggravate the condition, and hence it is better to avoid eating these food.

If your braces or broken tooth are irritating the cracks, consult your orthodontist for possible solutions.

If you unconsciously grind your teeth, use of a mouth guard with your dentist’s advice can help you prevent further irritations.

4. Switch Your Diet

Biotin or iron deficiency is one of the major causes of cracked tongue. Switch to an iron-rich diet can help in faster recovery.

Eat more chicken, eggs, mushrooms, cauliflower and other foods rich in the nutrient. Avoid coffee, tea, alcohol, or tobacco, since these can irritate your tongue and promote staining in certain cases.

5. Medication

After a complete diagnosis, your doctor may recommend you anti-fungal medications in the case of an oral thrush. In geographic tongue, you may be prescribed with pain relievers or anesthetic containing mouth rinses. Antibiotics can be prescribed in case of a hairy tongue.

The doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome. For Sjogren’s syndrome, certain stimulants or artificial tears can be helpful.

When to See a Doctor?

You should consult a physician if your cracked tongue is causing severe discomfort. If your cracks are swelling, you must see a doctor as it can be a serious condition of tongue cancer.

Since the causes are varied and mostly associated with deep-rooted health issues, it is better to visit your doctor when you notice any tongue abnormalities. The general prescriptions of the physician include antibiotics, topical relieving creams and specific maintenance of dental hygiene.

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Madhvi Bhosale, Microbiologist

Madhvi Bhosale is a microbiologist (M.Sc.) and has experience of research in the field of molecular biology of malarial parasite P.falciparum. She has contributed in the research about P. falciparum epigenome. With the background of research about microbial diseases, she aspire to write health related articles which can help the readers to be aware and stay healthy. She also writes biology educational contents and story boards. With her creative mind, she produces a clear and refined audio-visual biology concepts. The sound knowledge of microbiology enables her to contribute significantly in writing all-inclusive health articles.