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What is Fissured Tongue? Its Etiology, Symptoms, Characteristics, Diagnosis and Treatment

Sometimes you have noticed cracks in your tongue and asked yourself- What is this? Am I suffering from any serious medical condition? Well, JUST RELAX! Luckily, its not an alarming condition.
The cracks or fissures on your tongue surface are harmless and this condition which is not at all a cause of concern is known as FISSURED TONGUE. Most common site of Occurrence is middle one-third of tongue.

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Fissured Tongue Image

Fissured Tongue is described as multiple grooves or cracks on the top surface of the tongue.
These fissures can be-
Shallow or Deep
• Multiple or Single
• Present in the center of tongue or lateral sides.
Occurrence of this condition is about 2-5% in US population with males more commonly affected.

Etiology of Fissured Tongue

Its cause is UNKNOWN but it may be hereditary. Don’t be afraid! It’s a non-contagious disease and people can’t pass it to anyone else.
Fissured Tongue may be associated with other conditions like-

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Geographic Tongue

It is also known as BENIGN MIGRATORY GLOSSITIS which results in red and white areas that spread to the top and side of tongue. It can also affect the other areas of mouth. Despite its appearance, it is not linked to cancer or infection.

Geographic Tongue Image

Melkersson Rosenthal Syndrome

This is a rare condition causing swelling of the lips and face and also involves facial paralysis ( BELL’s PALSY ) and a fissured tongue.

Down Syndrome

It is a condition in which a person is born with an extra chromosome. This condition causes a distinct facial appearance, intellectual disability, and developmental delays.

Down Syndrome Tongue

Malnutrition and Vitamin deficiency


No such symptoms are recorded till date until Debris is collected within the fissures. Patient may complain

  • Slight burning sensation and sensitivity to hot, spicy and citrus food if associated with Geographic Tongue.
  • Bad breath (Halitosis)
  • Soreness in tongue
  • Age– These fissures start appearing during childhood and can be diagnosed more frequently in adults. This condition increases with increase in age just like appearance of wrinkles as we get older.

Characteristics of Fissured Tongue

  • Cracks or grooves on sides and top of the tongue.
  • No other area is involved.
  • Fissures have depth of 2-6mm.
  • These grooves can interconnect separating tongue into small sections.

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There’s no need of tests like biopsy to be performed. During a routine intraoral examination, this condition can be diagnosed by your dentist.

Fissured Tongue Examination


  • No medication or specific therapy is required.
  • Use of mouthwash and tongue cleansing using soft toothbrush after meals and before bedtime should be added in your daily oral hygiene habits.
  • Your oral health practitioner may remove the accumulated debris on the tongue during your visits to his clinic as that debris can cause irritation.


Fissured tongue is a benign, painless and harmless condition. We know this condition may sound (and at times look) alarming but it’s not a cause for concern. And it’s not an indicator of bad oral health. Continue with proper oral care routine and schedule your regular appointments with your dentist. Taking care of your fissured tongue will become as normal as brushing your teeth everyday! Smile and have a positive outlook to your beautiful life and live each day with joy and thanksgiving!

Dr Shradha Godara

Dr Shradha Godara

Shradha Godara, a dentist by profession, is now a homemaker because of her family needs. In her free time, Dr Godara loves writing articles on health issues especially dental-related that allows her to remain aware and knowledgeable about new dental diseases and their preventive measures.

Tricky Care