Cracked Tongue: Causes, Signs, and Remedies

As a dentist, I’ve encountered a variety of oral health conditions, including the intriguing phenomenon of a cracked tongue. This condition, often harmless, can cause discomfort and anxiety.

The cracked tongue isn’t a new concern. It’s been recognized for centuries, even in traditional Chinese medicine, which views the tongue as a health mirror. An ancient tale tells of a practitioner diagnosing a man’s health imbalance, or ‘Qi’, from his fissured tongue. After a regimen of herbs and lifestyle changes, the man’s health and tongue appearance improved.

This story highlights the tongue’s role in our health. In this article, we’ll explore the causes, signs, and remedies of tongue cracks, providing a comprehensive understanding of this condition.

What is a Cracked Tongue?

A cracked or fissured tongue is a unique oral health condition where the tongue’s surface exhibits a pattern of grooves or fissures. These fissures can vary greatly in terms of depth and number, and they can appear anywhere on the tongue – from the tip to the very back. The appearance of the tongue can range from a single, shallow groove to multiple deep fissures, creating a pattern that is often likened to a geographical map or a topographical landscape, hence the descriptive terms.

The fissures themselves are typically lined with a normal layer of epithelium, the tissue that covers the surface of the tongue. This means that the grooves are not open sores or cuts, but rather indentations in the tongue’s surface.

Causes of a Cracked Tongue

A cracked or fissured tongue can result from a multitude of factors, each possessing distinctive traits and implications. A study conducted in 2015 underscores the importance of early detection, suggesting that identifying a fissured tongue in its initial stages could potentially expedite the diagnosis of systemic disorders.

In the following discussion, we will explore some of the most prevalent causes of this condition.


A fissured tongue can often run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition. If your parents or siblings have a cracked tongue, you may be more likely to develop one as well.

Geographic Tongue

This benign condition, also known as benign migratory glossitis, is characterized by irregular, map-like patches on the tongue’s surface. Individuals with a geographic tongue have a higher likelihood of developing fissures or cracks.

Melkersson-Rosenthal Syndrome

This rare neurological disorder is associated with facial paralysis, facial swelling, and a fissured tongue. The syndrome is chronic and non-progressive, but its exact cause remains unknown.

Nutritional Deficiencies

A lack of certain nutrients, particularly B vitamins, can contribute to the development of a cracked tongue. Malnutrition or poor diet can lead to various oral health issues, including a fissured tongue.

Acid Reflux or General Indigestion

Chronic acid reflux can lead to a condition known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), which can cause a range of oral health issues, including a cracked tongue. Repeated exposure to stomach acid can cause damage and inflammation in the mouth, leading to fissures on the tongue.

Pustular Psoriasis

This form of psoriasis is characterized by white pustules surrounded by red skin, which can occur on the tongue and cause fissures. It’s a rare condition and more severe than the common plaque psoriasis.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Inadequate oral hygiene can lead to a buildup of bacteria and debris in the mouth, which can contribute to a fissured tongue. Regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups can help maintain oral health and potentially prevent a cracked tongue.


A research paper published in 1988 establishes a correlation between the progression of a fissured tongue and advancing age. The study suggests that the probability of manifesting a fissured tongue escalates as individuals grow older. The precise cause behind this phenomenon remains uncertain, but it could potentially be attributed to age-related alterations in the body’s tissues.

While these are common causes, it’s important to note that a cracked tongue can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying health issue. If you notice changes in your tongue’s appearance or experience discomfort, it’s recommended to consult a healthcare professional for a thorough examination.


tongue mirror

A fissured or cracked tongue is typically recognizable due to its unique visual characteristics. The following symptoms can help identify this condition:

  1. Presence of Grooves or Fissures: The most noticeable sign of a fissured tongue is the appearance of deep grooves or fissures on the tongue’s surface. These fissures can vary in depth and number, ranging from multiple small cracks to a single large central fissure.
  2. Changes in Tongue Color or Texture: The tongue may appear redder than usual or exhibit signs of swelling. The texture of the tongue might also change due to the fissures, giving it a rough or uneven feel.
  3. Sensitivity to Certain Foods: Individuals with a fissured tongue may experience discomfort or pain when consuming spicy or acidic foods. This is because these types of foods can irritate the fissures, leading to a burning sensation or discomfort.
  4. Difficulty with Oral Hygiene: Due to the deep grooves, maintaining oral hygiene can be challenging. Food particles and bacteria can get trapped in the fissures, potentially leading to other oral health issues.

It’s important to note that while these symptoms can indicate a fissured tongue, they can also be associated with other oral health conditions. Therefore, if you notice these signs, it’s recommended to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis.

Remedies for a Cracked Tongue

While a cracked tongue is typically a harmless condition, it can cause discomfort or concern for some individuals. There are several remedies that can help.

Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial. Regular brushing and flossing can help keep your tongue clean and reduce discomfort. Using a tongue scraper can also be beneficial.

Maintaining proper hydration, such as consuming ample amounts of water or natural beverages like okra water, can assist in keeping your tongue sufficiently moist. This, in turn, can help to mitigate any discomfort that might be associated with a cracked tongue.

drink water

If spicy, salty, or acidic foods irritate your cracked tongue, try to avoid these.

If your cracked tongue is due to a vitamin deficiency, taking nutritional supplements may help. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

Lastly, if your cracked tongue is causing significant discomfort or if you’re concerned about its appearance, it’s a good idea to consult a healthcare professional. They can provide further advice and treatment options.


Q1: Can a cracked tongue cause a speech impediment?

A cracked tongue does not typically cause a speech impediment. However, if you’re experiencing speech difficulties along with a cracked tongue, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional as it could be a sign of an underlying condition.

tongue out

Q2: Can a cracked tongue lead to other oral health problems?

While a cracked tongue itself is generally not harmful, the grooves can sometimes harbor bacteria, which can lead to bad breath and potentially contribute to tooth decay or gum disease. Maintaining good oral hygiene can help prevent these issues.

Q3: Can children have a cracked tongue?

Yes, children can have a cracked tongue. It can be a hereditary condition, so if a parent has a cracked tongue, their child may also develop one.

Q4: Can a cracked tongue heal on its own?

In many cases, a cracked tongue is a lifelong condition that doesn’t necessarily ‘heal’ or go away completely. However, the symptoms can be effectively managed with proper oral hygiene and care.

Q5: Can stress cause a cracked tongue?

While stress isn’t a direct cause of a cracked tongue, it can exacerbate symptoms in some people. Stress can lead to behaviors like tongue biting or grinding teeth, which can potentially worsen the condition.

Q6: Can certain medications cause a cracked tongue?

Certain medications can cause dry mouth, which may exacerbate the discomfort of a cracked tongue. If you suspect your medication is causing oral health issues, consult with your healthcare provider.

tongue photo

Q7: Can a cracked tongue bleed?

While it’s uncommon, a deeply fissured or cracked tongue can sometimes bleed, especially if irritated by certain foods or poor oral hygiene. If you notice bleeding, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional.

Q8: Can a cracked tongue cause a loss of taste?

While a cracked tongue doesn’t typically cause a loss of taste, some people may experience a slight alteration in taste, especially if the tongue becomes irritated by certain foods or drinks.


A cracked tongue, while often harmless, can cause discomfort and concern for those who have it. Understanding the causes and signs can help you identify if you have this condition, and knowing the remedies can help you manage it effectively. As always, maintaining good oral hygiene and consulting with a healthcare professional are the best ways to ensure the health of your tongue and your overall oral health.

Remember, your mouth is the gateway to your overall health, and taking care of it can have far-reaching benefits. As a dentist, I encourage you to pay attention to any changes in your oral health and seek professional advice when needed. Your tongue, like the rest of your body, deserves care and attention.

Stay tuned for more insightful posts on oral health, and remember, a healthy smile is a beautiful smile!