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Scrotal (Fissured) Tongue: A Benign Condition

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Scrotal tongue is a condition that you may not know you have until your dentist notices the fissures during a dental exam. Often present from birth, symptoms may not be obvious until you get older and your tongue starts to look wrinkled. In some cases, there is a groove down the middle of the tongue with fissures branching off.

Since scrotal tongue sometimes accompanies certain health issues, it helps to understand more about this benign condition that affects about 2 to 5 percent of the American population.

What are other causes of scrotal tongue?

  • Malnutrition – particularly the lack of B vitamins in the diet

  • Down syndrome – a common genetic birth defect that often causes a large tongue with fissures and grooves

  • Benign migratory glossitis (also known as geographic tongue) – a condition characterized by swollen, red patches on the tongue that look map-like in nature

  • Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome – a neurological disorder that causes deep ridges in the tongue along with facial swelling and paralysis

What are the symptoms of scrotal tongue?

Although many people experience no troublesome symptoms other than the interconnected fissures or cracks in the tongue unless the fissures deepen, sometimes symptoms of the condition may include:

  • Bald patches on the tongue

  • Tenderness

  • Burning sensation, especially when eating spicy, salty, or acidic foods

  • Bad breath from food debris that accumulates in the grooves

What is the treatment for scrotal tongue?

Other than cleaning the top surface of your tongue every day with a soft toothbrush or tongue scraper, there is no treatment for the condition. Although the depth of the fissures varies, proper tongue hygiene helps prevent food particles from getting stuck in these grooves. To prevent discomfort deep fissures can cause, avoid eating foods that can cause burning or soreness of the tongue.

Regularly scraping your tongue also prevents bacteria and fungi from growing on the tongue and causing inflammation or fungal infections, such as oral thrush, of the tongue.

How do you clean the tongue?

Brush your teeth first and then rinse your toothbrush thoroughly before using the bristles to clean your tongue. Start at the back of your tongue and work forward, using a gentle brushing motion. When you finish, rinse out your mouth with water.

You can also use a tongue scraper to remove the buildup of debris on the top surface of your tongue. Apply light pressure as you work so that you don't make your tongue sore or cause it to bleed.

The same as when you use a toothbrush, start at the back of your tongue and work your way to the front. Rinse the tongue scraper with warm water after each scrape. Pay special attention when cleaning the middle of your tongue, a place that harbors a lot of bacteria. For more tips, consult your dentist.