What Is a Fissured Tongue?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Fissured tongue is a usually benign variation in the structure of the tongue where the surface has one or more deep grooves. While the tongue itself should not present health problems to the patient, it can be a sign of an underlying condition that does require treatment. Some patients with fissured tongues also have a condition known as geographic tongue, where patches appear on the surface of the tongue and cause it to have an irregular appearance.

When the surface of the tongue has one or more deep gooves, it is referred to as a fissured tongue.
When the surface of the tongue has one or more deep gooves, it is referred to as a fissured tongue.

Certain genetic conditions are known to be associated with fissured tongue, including Down syndrome and Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome, along with other disorders that cause abnormalities in facial structure. In other cases, it can be passed on as a genetic trait without any associated disorder. The fissures in the tongue may become more noticeable with age, as the tongue grows and the rest of the patient's mouth develops.

Down syndrome is linked to having a fissured tongue.
Down syndrome is linked to having a fissured tongue.

This natural variation does not require any medical treatment. Patients with fissured tongue may need to exercise more care in their oral hygiene regimens to make sure the tongue is thoroughly cleaned. The fissure can create a warm, moist refuge for oral bacteria and other microorganisms. Regularly brushing of the tongue and using appropriate oral care products like mouthwash can help reduce the development of bacteria colonies and may also prevent unpleasant oral odors.

Brushing the tongue can help prevent bacterial growth in those with fissured tongues.
Brushing the tongue can help prevent bacterial growth in those with fissured tongues.

Parents who notice a fissured tongue in a child not known to have any genetic disorders and who doesn't have a family history of tongue fissures may want to discuss the situation with a pediatrician. The doctor can evaluate the patient to determine if the tongue is part of a medical issue. It may not be, in which case the parents do not need to take any additional steps. If the patient also has geographic tongue or other oral anomalies, these may simply be signs of random variations that occurred during fetal development.

Deep tongue fissures may be corrected by surgery.
Deep tongue fissures may be corrected by surgery.

In cases where the fissures are deep or cause discomfort, it may be possible to correct the fissured tongue surgically. An oral and maxillofacial surgeon can evaluate the patient and determine if he is a good candidate for surgery. In the surgery, the doctor will close the fissures and smooth the texture and appearance of the tongue. Healing time tends to be rapid, as the tongue grows quickly. For the first few days the patient needs to be careful while eating and drinking to protect the tongue and the suture site.

People who have a fissured tongue need to practice excellent oral hygiene.
People who have a fissured tongue need to practice excellent oral hygiene.
Using mouthwash can help reduce bacteria development for someone with fissured tongue.
Using mouthwash can help reduce bacteria development for someone with fissured tongue.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon319381

Is there an over-the-counter mouth wash that will help with sensitivity to acid foods?

My dad, two of his three brothers, and I have fissured tongue. My middle child is developing a fissure in the middle of his tongue. Aside from being ugly, it is very painful.

anon269992

My first kiss was with someone with a fissured tongue. I'm still traumatized by it. I think it was pretty severe, though. Most people on the Internet doesn't seem to mind it, but to me it was so gross. Thinking about it still makes me super sad. He smoked so I've always thought it was caused by cigarettes. I never knew that it's genetic.

anon225418

Everywhere on the web, it is said that a fissured tongue cannot be treated and that you just have to learn to live with it. Swallowing extra vitamins and good oral hygiene can't always solve the problem, neither is "bad oral hygiene" always the cause. Unfortunately, I'm one of the people who were born with such a hideous tongue, and my dad has it too, so in this case, it really is a genetic disorder.

Not only has my tongue always been far too big, but the fissures were often painful and the sight of the tongue was so embarrassing that I was very ashamed of it. Kissing a boyfriend for instance was hell; I was always afraid he'd notice it. One of them did as a matter of fact and dumped me; he thought that it was gross.

So it's a good thing in my opinion that this article also mentions the possibility of surgery, and if you decide to undergo such an operation, I'd say go for it! Yes, of course it will be unpleasant and painful in the beginning and your tongue will be very swollen, but afterward, the sight of your tongue will improve, the painful fissures will be gone and most important: your self-esteem will be given a boost.

People who don't have this weird condition won't be able to understand how it feels, so you'll have to make that decision for yourself. Good luck!

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