What Is Fissured Tongue?

The Harmless Appearance of Grooves in the Tongue

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Fissured tongue is a condition that causes grooves in the tongue, but in most cases this harmless tongue condition is just a variation of a tongue's appearance. You might be born with a fissured tongue, or it can develop over time. Unless you have other symptoms, you don’t need to treat a fissured tongue. But you will need to brush well to clear any buildup from the cracks. 

Continue reading to learn more about fissured tongue, including answers to questions like what causes a fissured tongue and can tongue fissures be cured. 

Fissured tongue

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Fissured Tongue Symptoms

The most prominent symptom of fissured tongue is changes to the appearance of the tongue. A fissured tongue has grooves, or fissures, particularly in the center of the tongue. It’s common to have a deep fissure in the middle of the tongue, running from the back of the mouth toward the front. You may also have other, smaller fissures on the side and front of the tongue.

Most people don’t have any additional symptoms. 

Fissured tongue often occurs along with geographic tongue, another harmless tongue condition that causes flat, discolored patches on the tongue. 


The medical community doesn't know what causes fissured tongue, which affects about 5% of Americans. In fact, they think it’s likely just a variation in the way that tongues can look. Most often, fissured tongue happens in healthy people, and it can develop seemingly out of nowhere as you get older.

Researchers believe that your genes impact whether you develop a fissured tongue. Although medical professionals don’t understand exactly why the condition occurs, they believe multiple genes are at play. If your parent or family member has a fissured tongue, you’re more likely to have one. 

Some studies have indicated that underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes could contribute to fissured tongue. The exact connection is not yet clear, and more research is needed.

Risk Factors

Fissured tongue is more common in people with certain genetic conditions, including:

Diagnosis and Treatment

Fissured tongue doesn’t usually require a diagnosis or treatment since it’s considered a variation of a tongue's appearance. However, if you experience additional symptoms like a burning sensation on your tongue, bad breath, or trouble eating or swallowing, you should see a healthcare provider.

Since tongue fissures are normal and harmless, there is no need to correct the grooves in your tongue.


The prognosis for fissured tongue is excellent, since the condition doesn’t typically have any impact on overall health. However, if you have fissures in your tongue you may need to pay extra attention to oral hygiene. Food particles or debris can get stuck in the fissures, leading to bad breath, plaque buildup, and other oral health concerns. Brushing your tongue thoroughly can help keep your mouth and tongue healthy.


Fissured tongue is a condition that causes grooves, or indentations, on the surface of the tongue. The condition is harmless and likely just a variation of normal tongue appearance. There’s no need for treatment or diagnosis, but you should see a healthcare provider if you have secondary symptoms like burning on your tongue.

Fissured tongue can run in families. It often occurs in healthy people, but it's also prevalent in people with certain genetic conditions, including Down syndrome.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Oral Medicine. Fissured tongue.

  2. Radfar L. Geographic tongue. American Academy of Oral Medicine.

  3. Staines K.S. Fissured, hairy, and geographic tongue. British Medical Journal. January 1, 2023.

  4. Sudarshan, Ramachandran, G. Sree Vijayabala, Y. Samata, and A. Ravikiran. Newer classification system for fissured tongue: An epidemiological approach. Journal of Tropical Medicine. 2015

By Kelly Burch
Kelly Burch is has written about health topics for more than a decade. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.