What Causes Wavy, Scalloped Tongue and How to Treat It?

Scalloped tongue

If you have noticed painful, rippled indentations on the sides of your tongue, you may be suffering from the scalloped tongue. It can result in crenulated tongue edges or wavy patterns on the tongue. This is not a dangerous condition, but it is painful, and it can interfere with your daily life.

It is a symptom of an underlying health condition. It is also called wavy tongue, crenated tongue, or pie crust tongue. If you think you have a scalloped tongue, read on to know the causes and how to get rid of it.

Related: Cracked Tongue: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

What are the Causes of Wavy, Scalloped Tongue?

You may wonder what causes wavy tongue. Inflamed tongue leads to the scalloped tongue. Swelling of the tongue is called macroglossia. And there are some reasons why you could have this problem.

The causes of the scalloped tongue are mentioned below:

1. Dehydration

It may seem counterintuitive, but dehydration can actually make your body parts swell. It can also lead to a swollen tongue. If the swollen tongue presses against your teeth you can get the wavy crenated tongue.

2. Vitamin Deficiency

Deficiency of vitamins such as vitamin B12, iron, and folate can lead to swelling of the tongue. If you don’t get enough of them, you can develop crenated tongue.

3. Birth Defect

Some genetic conditions and birth defects can lead to tongue swelling and then to the scalloped tongue. These conditions include Down syndrome, congenital hypothyroidism, and Apert syndrome. If you suffer from one of these genetic conditions, you may get a wavy tongue.

4. Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid hormone levels are too low. As a result, you can have the symptoms mentioned below along with a wavy pattern on your tongue.

5. Amyloidosis

Amyloidosis is the buildup of proteins in your organs. This disease can show symptoms related to the specific organs when you have protein buildup. If you have it on your tongue, you can get a swollen tongue that leads to the scalloped tongue.

6. Anxiety

Anxiety can affect many different parts of the body. Often people with anxiety can have oral problems. If your anxiety causes you to press your tongue against your teeth, you can develop scalloped tongue.

7. Joint Disorders

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is when the joint of your jaw bone is out of line. Your tongue has to work hard to hold your lower jaw in place. It presses against the teeth and mouth to create pressure. Doing this all the time can create the wavy edges on the sides of your tongue.

8. Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a problem where you have a hard time breathing while you are asleep. To correct it, you might push your tongue against your teeth to breathe. Thus, sleep apnea can result in pie crust tongue.

How to Get Rid of Scalloped Tongue?

Once you know what is causing your wavy tongue, you will want to know how to get rid of it. The method used to get rid of scalloped tongue depends on the cause.

If you think you know why you are experiencing this problem, find your treatment option below. Most of the time there is something you can do at home to treat scalloped tongue.

Related: Natural Treatments for Bumps on Back of Tongue

1. Keep yourself hydrated

Dehydration can lead to many problems. If you think your pie crust tongue is caused by dehydration, you should drink more water. It’s important that you drink water consistently throughout the day. Try to drink a cup of water every hour. Then after a few days, your wavy tongue should go away.

2. Take Vitamin Supplements

If your wavy tongue is caused due to vitamin deficiency, you should get more vitamins. You can take vitamin pills for vitamin B12, iron, and folate.

You can also try to eat foods that have these vitamins in them. Try eating meat, fish, leafy greens, dairy, and beans. Check the labels of your foods to see if they are high in vitamin B12, iron or folate.

3. Oral Hygiene

Maintain a good oral hygiene to treat scalloped tongue. If you have a birth defect or genetic condition, you will need to work with your doctor to manage your symptoms.

Dental or orthodontic procedures can help you get rid of a scalloped tongue. But you can try to reduce the pain of scalloped tongue at home. Taking over-the-counter medicines like antihistamine can help with this.

4. Medicines

If hypothyroidism is the cause, your doctor will prescribe you the medicines after diagnosis. Until you see your doctor, you can try to improve this on your own. Increase magnesium and iodine intake. This may help you with your hypothyroidism symptoms, including the crenulated tongue.

5. Chemotherapy

If the cause of scalloped tongue is amyloidosis, it requires medical attention. You will need to work with your doctor to treat this condition. Chemotherapy and stem-cell transplant are some treatments for amyloidosis.

6. Reduce Anxiety

If your crenated tongue is caused due to anxiety, you need to seek an appointment with a therapist. You can also try to address the behaviors associated with anxiety.

Try to notice if you are pressing your tongue against your teeth. And when you catch yourself doing that, make an effort to relax your tongue. You should seek help to address the underlying anxiety.

7. Relax Your Tongue

If you have a joint disorder like TMD, you can get scalloped tongue from pressing it against your teeth too much. You should see a doctor about treating the disorder. But at home, you can try to reduce your pain in your mouth. Try to notice if you are pressing your tongue against your teeth.

And when you find yourself doing that, make an effort to relax your tongue. This won’t treat the disorder, but it can help with the pain. Also, eat soft foods, avoid chewing gum, and yawning wide.

8. Use CPAP Machine

Sleep apnea is usually treated by using a continuous positive airway pressure machine, also called a CPAP machine. This is a mask connected to a machine that you wear over your face when you sleep.

This can help you to breathe better when you sleep and make sure you get enough oxygen. Using a CPAP machine can help relieve your wavy tongue and help you to sleep better.

Related: Natural Remedies to Treat Canker Sores on the Tongue

Possible Complications for a Scalloped Tongue

If you have wavy patterns on your tongue, it’s probably not alarming. This usually does not indicate a severe health problem. The only problem is that it is painful. You may have complications from an underlying medical condition which is causing the wavy tongue.

But scalloped tongue itself is not a cause for concern. If you have one of the diseases or conditions listed above, you should see your doctor anyway.

You can mention the symptoms to the doctor to see if they can relieve the pain with medication or treatment.

When to See a Doctor?

Even though the scalloped tongue isn’t a serious condition, you may need to consult your doctor. If the scalloped tongue is caused by swelling and it starts to block your airways, see a doctor right away. Anytime it makes it harder for you to breathe, you should have your doctor check it out.

If the swelling worsens or lasts for more than a week, you should see a doctor. When you experiencing difficulty chewing, swallowing, eating, or talking, have your doctor look at it.

If you try the home remedies listed above and they don’t help, you can get medical treatment.

“What Causes a Scalloped Tongue?,” Healthline web site, 23 June 2017; http://www.healthline.com/health/scalloped-tongue#overview1.
“Scalloped Tongue (Wavy Tongue): Causes and How to Get Rid of It,” Health and Natural World web site; http://www.healthyandnaturalworld.com/scalloped-tongue/, last accessed Sept 04, 2017.
“Scalloped Tongue Causes, Pictures, Hypothyroid, Diagnosis & Treatment,” Heal Cure web site, 11 August 2017; http://www.healcure.org/tongue/tongue-problems/scalloped-tongue-causes-pictures-hyperthyroid-diagnosis-treatment/.
“Scalloped Tongue (Wavy Tongue) Causes and How to Treat It,” Doctors Health Press web site, 11 May 2017; http://www.doctorshealthpress.com/general-health-articles/scalloped-tongue-wavy-tongue/.

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Dr. David Cummings, MD

David Cummings, MD, is a medical reviewer and editor at Daily Health Cures. David received his medical degree from the University of Illinois.