What is Fissured Tongue?

Fissured tongue is a common and benign condition that affects the surface of the tongue. It is a common condition that is experienced by the general population or that has affected the general population at one point in their lives. Fissured tongue is characterized by a deep groove or furrows on the upper portion of the tongue or at the lateral part of the tongue.Fissured tongue can be seen in the general population although the prevalence is diverging in graphic location. It is a common and benign condition with seen prevalence among male gender without racial predilection. Mortality and morbidity are not associated with the tongue fissure itself as the incidence is somehow viewed as a normal part of the structure of the tongue except for those associated with some other diseases that are already in existence. Fissured tongue is generally painless except in instances where food particles and other debris get trapped in the groove or when associated with geographic tongue although there are some affected individuals who complain of burning sensation.Fissured tongue is also called by other names such as lingua plicata, plicated tongue and scrotal tongue. It is a condition that greatly involves the tongue although in a way, it is not discomforting yet this condition is often associated with bad breath.The tongue is composed of a group of muscles and is covered by a pinkish lingual membrane with tiny projections known as the papillae. The tongue is a versatile and important organ of the body responsible for tasting and is also an important part of speech and articulation. Different diseases and disorders can occur in the tongue which can be discomforting. Fissured tongue on the other hand is not a disease itself but is believed to be part of the normal structure of the tongue which does not cause discomfort. It is a benign condition millions of people get to experience.

Fissured Tongue Symptoms

Fissured tongue is generally asymptomatic as the condition can be considered a normal structure of the tongue. There are instances however, that a fissured tongue gets painful when food particles or debris get trapped in the groove or when hot and spicy foods are eaten. In some occasion, a fissured tongue can have a burning sensation or pins and needles sensation.Fissured tongue is characterized by the development of deep groove or shallow furrows on the dorsum or upper portion of the tongue or on the lateral portion of the tongue. The depth of the fissures can go as deep as 6 mm which can be a single fissure or a multitude of fissures that may connect with other fissures thereby splitting the tongue into small portions.A fissured tongue can also cause bad breath particularly when the groove extends further on the surface of the tongue. The cause of bad breath in fissured tongue is the food particles and other debris that gets trapped which later on becomes microorganism responsible for bad breath.The clinical presentation of fissured tongue varies in terms of the length of the groove, the depth of the groove and the pattern of the groove that developed. The groove can run from the lateral side to the dorsum region of the tongue. The pattern, length and depth of the groove can make a fissured tongue visible especially when talking or simply opening the mouth.Fissured tongue can also occur along with a geographic tongue where the tongue can be seen not only with grooves but also with contours resembling a geographic map. When this happens, the tongue is seen not only with deep grooves but can also be seen with a map like projection along with some discomfort, pain and burning sensation.


The exact cause of fissured tongue is unclear and is being thought as just a deviation from the normal architecture of the tongue. Fissured tongue on the other hand is being linked with genetic trait and is also considered to be triggered by several factors such as environmental and the normal aging process. The incidence of fissured tongue is usually diagnosed during adulthood although it may initially appear during childhood and may tend to stay on all throughout the lifetime.The onset of fissured tongue is being associated with several diseases and disorders and such include the following:

  • Down syndrome is commonly seen with fissured tongue. It is a chromosomal disorder brought by the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21. This syndrome causes delay in the development of the child both physically and mentally.
  • Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome is a neurological disorder where fissured tongue is among its main clinical presentation aside from facial paralysis and swelling of the face and the upper lip. This neurological disorder affects mainly the face, upper lips and the tongue thus, the incidence of fissured tongue.
  • Bell‚Äôs palsy is a condition characterized by a facial paralysis due to the dysfunction in the cranial nerve particularly of the cranial nerve VII. Fissured tongue is among the clinical presentation of Bell‚Äôs palsy that it is common for Bell‚Äôs palsy patients to be seen with deep grooves in their tongue.
  • Geographic tongue or benign migratory glossitis is an inflammatory disorder that involves the tongue. This condition is characterized by the appearance of map like projections on the dorsal region of the tongue. It is a harmless condition which can occur along with a fissured tongue. The tongue in this case not only has a map like projection but also has deep grooves or shallow furrows that run along the dorsum or on the lateral part of the tongue.


Fissured tongue typically requires no treatment. It is a very common condition described to be harmless and benign which is considered to be a deviation from the normal structure of the tongue. It is not a life-threatening condition that should not cause for alarm in individuals affected with fissured tongue.Preventive measures on the other hand are encouraged to prevent fissured tongue from occurring and such preventive measures include the following:

  • Practice of proper oral hygiene
  • Regular brushing of the teeth and tongue
  • Avoid foods that can be irritants to the tongue especially fissured tongue

Fissured Tongue Pictures

May 13, 2014
Diseases and Conditions

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