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Causes and Treatments of Tongue Cracks

written by: N Nayab • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 8/20/2010

Cracked or fissured tongue is a type of normal tongue and rarely causes any problem.The major cause of tongue cracks is hereditary conditions, and it does not require any specific treatment or cure.

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    Cause of Tongue Cracks Fissured or cracked tongue, also known as scrotal tongue or lingua plicata is a common condition affecting around five percent of the populace. People with this condition have one or more cracks, clefts, fissures, or grooves on the top or sides of the upper surface of the tongue. Such fissures vary in depth, with some extending as deep as 6 millimeters. The groves may connect, separating the tongue into small lobes or sections.

    Geographic tongue or benign migratory glossitis (BMG) usually accompanies tongue cracks at frequent intervals. This cause numerous folds or ridges, and smooth red patches with white border and of varying size that appears to move, on the upper surface on the tongue.

    Tongue cracks do not show any symptoms are not painful. The fissures on the dorsal portion of the tongue could entrap food and debris, providing a space for microorganisms to grow and multiply, resulting in tenderness to hot, acidic, or spicy foods and a burning sensation.

    Image Credit:Wikimedia Commons

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    Cause of Tongue Cracks

    Tongue cracks are inherited genetic trait. It starts at childhood and becomes more pronounced as the person ages. Eight out of ten children diagnosed with the chromosomal disorder Down syndrome have tongue cracks.

    There is no other known reason for tongue cracks by virtue of its anatomical position.

    Other possible causes for tongue cracks include:

    • Consumption of hot, spicy, or acidic food, tobacco, alcohol, dried, salty nuts, and smoking cigarettes could burn or irritate the tongue causing swelling and eventual cracking
    • Strong mouthwash, toothpaste with additives, whitening agents, or heavy flavoring could also lead to irritation of the tongue causing cracking
    • Food allergies lead to 'acid reflux' that brings acid from the stomach into the throat and mouth, and results in burning and cracking of the tongue.
    • Tongue repeatedly rubbing against uneven or broken teeth
    • Malabsorption of Vitamin B
    • Colon imbalance
    • Chewing or biting tongue during times of anxiety or tension, even during sleep

    The above possible fissured tongue causes however remain unsubstantiated.

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    Treatment of Tongue Crack

    Cracked tongue is a benign problem that does not require any specific treatment or cure.

    At times, debris trapped inside the fissures cause irritation. Brushing the top surface of the tongue removes such debris and the irritation. At other times, the infection develops into thrush or other chronic yeast infections, usually treated with the use of antifungal and anesthetic mouthwash, and intake of digestive enzyme, either as tablets or by consumption of green leafy vegetables and sprouted seeds.

    Apart from bacterial infections, tongue cracks often cause soreness and inflammation. Possible fissured tongue treatments to alleviate the resultant pain and irritation include pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, Vitamin B Complex supplements, and zinc supplements. Peppermint tea, nettle tea, brown rice, and quinoa also fortify the body with B vitamins.

    At times, tongue cracks develop into the rare Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome, the treatment of which requires removal of noxious agents present in the tongue. The best solution is application of corticosteroids directly on the tongue.

    The pain and swelling that accompany tongue cracks could also be pre-cancer growth, warranting a visit to the doctor.

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    References

    • NetWellness. Common Mouth and Tongue Conditions. http://netwellness.uc.edu/healthtopics/mouthdiseases/mouthconditions.cfm
    • Webmd.com. Fissured Tongue. http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/fissured-tongue