An important function of the tongue is to allow us to speak. But did you know that the tongue can tell us something about our health? If you’ve noticed cracks or grooves running along the surface of your tongue, you may be concerned about its appearance. The good news is that a fissured tongue isn’t contagious or painful and it’s a more common condition than you might think. According to Medical News Today, about 5% of people in the United States have it.
One 2016 study published in the Swiss Dental Journal found that incidences of fissured tongues increase with age and are more common in men than in women. While surface cracks on the tongue typically are not a cause for concern, some people with them may have an underlying health condition. Because of this, if you’re a person with furrows or grooves on your tongue, you should have a doctor or dentist rule out any medical issues.
A cracked tongue could be a sign of certain diseases
Why some people have cracks on their tongue and others do not is a mystery. Experts believe that fissured tongue is just a variation of normal (via American Academy of Oral Medicine). But some studies have indicated that a fissured tongue might be associated with some specific underlying health conditions.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Tropical Medicine found that a cracked tongue is a potential indicator of certain systemic diseases including hypertension, but more studies into this connection need to be done to determine a positive correlation.
According to a 2016 article in the Otolaryngology Online Journal, a fissured tongue has been found to be present in people with pernicious anemia, where the body can’t absorb enough vitamin B12, and in those with several rare diseases including Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder, and Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome (MRS), a neurological condition that causes inflammation in the face.
Fortunately, most people with fissures along the tongue don’t suffer from one of these rare underlying conditions. However, with a cracked tongue, bacteria or fungi can proliferate in the tongue’s grooves, leading to infection (per Medical News Today).
Those with this condition should pay close attention to cleaning the tongue to help remove any trapped food that can cause bad breath and a yeast infection. A yeast, or Candida, infection on the tongue might require treatment with an antifungal topical medication.