The cracked tongue can be easily identified by just looking. It causes a crack in the centre of the tongue and other small cracks on the edges. This is the most common appearance but it can change depending on the underlying causes.
There is also a difference in the depth of the cracks. If you don’t disturb your tongue during the disease, it will not be painful. However, consumption of hot, acidic or spicy foods can cause your tongue to burn and develop needles sensation.
The tongue is considered a highly sensitive organ to touch, pain and temperature. It is the muscular organ in the mouth that helps in chewing and swallowing the food.
It is also used in speech. So, if there is any injury to the tongue, it can be very painful (more painful than accidentally biting your tongue). Cracked tongue is one such injury.
Who Can Get A Cracked Tongue?
Anyone, irrespective of the age, gender or ethnicity, can develop a cracked tongue. However, there are some underlying cases that make you more vulnerable.
For example, if you have a weak immune system, you are more prone to get an Oral thrush. People with poorly controlled diabetes and auto-immune diseases can easily get the disease. Ageing can make the tongue’s natural wrinkles more pronounced.
What Does Cracked Tongue Reveal About Your Health?
The diagnosis of cracked tongue requires the inspection of your mouth and body to look for other symptoms that might be the underlying conditions responsible for cracked tongue. If you have cracked tongue, there are two conditions that need to be assessed:
1. Geographic Tongue
Our tongue is covered with a series of small, pinkish-white bumps known as papillae. In this condition, the papillae are missing from some part of the tongue and the tongue looks like a smooth island.
The papillae recover in one spot and then disappear from another. This makes the tongue’s natural grooves more pronounced. The tongue might hurt on eating salty, spicy and acidic food.
2. Vitamin Deficiency
Iron or Biotin deficiency can cause cracked tongue. Both the vitamins mature the papillae and the deficiency of either one of them can lead to the development of large, smooth patches on the tongue.
Symptoms Of Cracked Tongue
If you have cracked tongue, you will know it. It is not something that might go unnoticeable. You can easily distinguish it from other physiological tongue issues. Here are few signs that might help:
i) You will see cracks appearing on the tongue. These cracks will be accompanied by grooves, mouth sores, irritation, and pain.
ii) The cracks will only appear on your tongue. Your cheeks and gums will be fine.
iii) The appearance of cracks might vary from patient to patient. They may be connected in a grooved pattern. It divides the tongue into many sections. The cracks can become as deep as 6 mm.
iv) Your tongue will become highly sensitive to spicy food and whenever you eat these items; your tongue will burn causing you immense pain.
v) Your food might get stuck in these cracks resulting in bad breath and increasing the risk of developing a fungal or bacterial infection in your mouth.
vi) For some patients, the cracks start to develop during childhood. But in most of the cases, cracked tongue is a problem for adults.
vii) If the cracks become large and start connecting with each other, they might appear as lobes.
viii) These cracks form a breeding site for yeast known as Candida Albicans.
ix) There is no bleeding from any of these cracks.
Identification of Cracked Tongue
The diagnosis of a cracked tongue is simple. Usually, it involves looking the tongue to know what is occurring alongside the cracks. Cracked tongue can be accurately determined through a visual inspection along with the medical history.
Sometimes it is hard to determine the cause. Some tests may be taken to identify any underlying condition. The blood test can be taken to identify any deficiencies.
Biopsy of a lesion can be done to determine any other condition. Biopsy of the swollen lip can help in identifying the Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome.
Causes of Cracked Tongue
If you are regularly brushing the dorsal surface or lateral borders of the tongue, you might develop cracked tongue. When you have a broken tooth and you continue eating with that, it causes a constant friction on the tongue which could cause cracked tongue.
This theory is not backed up by any research or study. But, many people believe that hereditary conditions make people more prone to cracked tongue.
3. Abnormalities of the tongue
If you are suffering from Geographic tongue, it increases the risk of developing cracked tongue. Geographic tongue is a condition that causes Filiform Papillae of the tongue to disappear that result in bald patches on the tongue.
Also, a condition known as Hairy Tongue, which causes Keratinization and causes the Filiform Papillae to overgrow, causes staining on the tongue, which is sometimes mistaken for a cracked tongue.
4. Deficiency of Biotin
Biotin is a member of the Vitamin B family. It is most commonly used to energize the metabolism and synthesise the fat of the body. Deficiency of Biotin causes pain in the muscles of the tongue.
Also, there can be grey skin, dry skin, fatigue and paleness that increase the risk of development of cracked tongue. You can increase the Biotin content in the body by increasing the intake of egg yolks, mushroom, chicken, and cauliflower.
5. Sjogren’s Syndrome
Sjogren’s syndrome is a disorder that makes the body attack its own moisture glands. This leads to fatigue, dry mouth, itching, burning eyes, joint pain and cracked tongue.
The main cause for the development of this condition is still unknown but many suggest that genetic and environmental conditions play a vital role.
Bacterial or viral infections can also increase the risk of the development of the syndrome. If you have this condition, you cannot treat it. However, its symptoms can be controlled with the help of artificial tears and saliva stimulants.
6. Melkersson-Rosenthal Syndrome
The cause of this syndrome is still unknown. If you get this, there is 20% to 40% chance, that you will get cracked tongue. Melkersson-Rosenthal causes swelling on the eyelids, lips, and sometimes the entire sides of the scalp.
The swollen lips can crack, which is very painful. The salivary glands get impaired and the sense of taste is reduced. Sometimes, it can lead to Bell’s palsy, partial face paralysis. The swelling goes away within few days, but in some cases, it gets worse and becomes permanent.
7. Down Syndrome
It is a chromosomal disorder that causes intellectual disability, short neck and limbs and low muscle tone. About 80% of the people suffering from Down’s syndrome also suffer from cracked tongue.
8. Tertiary Syphilis
It is a very rare condition in the present generation. Many doctors have not even seen a single case during their entire medical practice. But it is one of the causes of cracked tongue that needs to be mentioned.
The continuous abuse to the tongue, in the form of aggressive brushing, getting poked by a broken tooth or any orthodontic hardware, can cause cracked tongue. This form of friction can develop cracks in the tongue. Grinding your teeth can also cause cracked tongue.
If you are junk food fan and prefer a lot of spicy food, you are leading your tongue to cracked tongue.
Exposure to stress or continuously grinding your teeth can also cause cracked tongue. A yeast infection known as Oral thrush weakens the immune system and increase the risk of cracked tongue.
Sometimes these conditions might cause swelling or bumps on the tongue that are mistaken for cracked tongue. Prolong alcohol consumption and chewing tobacco can also cause cracked tongue.
Is A Cracked Tongue Linked To Another Disease?
Cracked tongue can be the symptom of many diseases. So, doctors focus on the underlying conditions responsible for the cracked tongue. Here are the few of the disease:
1. Oral Thrush
If you have a thrush infection, it is possible that you get cracks on your tongue. The main cause of the oral thrush is the overgrowth of the Candida fungi that is present in our tongue. The lesions slowly spread to the gums causing pain and throwing off your sense of taste. Babies and elderly, with weak immune system, are more prone to this disease.
2. Black and Hairy Tongue
In this condition, the tongue gets coated with papillae that grow like hairs. Normally, it wears down with drinking and chewing, but in some cases, it can overgrow. It is common in people who smoke, drinks tea or coffee and have poor dental hygiene.
3. Tongue Cancer
Tongue cancer is present in the tongue as a red lump or lesion. It doesn’t go away for a long time. It can be painful and causes the tongue to swell and get cracked. If you suspect that a lesion is growing on your tongue, consult your doctor immediately.
Home Remedies For The Get Rid Of Cracked (Fissured)Tongue
Ice will lessen the irritation and also give a cooling effect to the tongue. Apply it directly on the ice to reduce the burning sensation and the pain in the tongue.
The toothpaste will scrape the tongue and kill the fungus, bacteria, and yeast present in the cracks of the tongue. Anaerobic bacteria can cause cracked tongue. Using toothpaste will provide an oxygenated environment to the bacteria.
Apply toothpaste on the tongue twice every day till you get rid of cracked tongue.
3. Margosa (Neem) leaves
Margosa tree is a herbal and medicinal plane. Every single part of the tree including the bark, stem, fruit, leaves, root and flower can be used as a useful medication. It is also very healthy for our immune system.
Take 15-20 leaves of Margosa, wash them properly and then crush them to make a paste of it. Brush with that paste twice a day. It has the antibacterial property that will kill the bacteria residing in the cracks. They will also help you get rid of bad breath and other dental problems.
4. Gargling with Garlic and Ginger
Garlic and ginger help in building a healthy immune system. Both of them have antibacterial and anti-viral properties that kill the bacteria present on the tongue responsible for the development of the cracks. This will reduce the pain and burning sensation of the tongue.
Take an onion and 5-6 garlic cloves, crush them and make a paste. Add this paste to a glass of water. Use it to gargle twice a day. This will help you defeat the bacteria that are not letting you eat your favourite spicy food.
5. Lavender oil
Lavender oil is a natural mixture of naturally occurring phytochemicals, including Linalool and Linalyl acetate. Kashmir lavender oil, developed from the lavenders present on the foothills of the Himalayas, is the best lavender oil.
Apply the oil directly to the tongue to relieve the tongue from the burning sensation and the pain. It is very beneficial to the lesions and also for other dental problems.
6. Mint leaves
Mint leaves are popular for leaving a cooling effect on the mouth. They are also helpful for a healthy immune system. You can add these to the daily food. It helps in reducing the burning sensation and reduces the lesions. It is also useful for dental as well as intestinal problems.
Take 10-15 mint leaves and wash them. Add these leaves to a vessel full of water and let it boil. After it cools down, drain the water out and refrigerate it and then drink twice a day to break off from the pain and burning sensation.
7. Aloe Vera
It is the best herbal medicine for the cracked tongue. This protects the sensitive tissues of the mouth. It also increases the taste buds. Drink ¼ cup aloe vera juice daily. You can also rinse your mouth with aloe vera juice. Use a cotton swab to apply pure aloe vera gel around your mouth. Leave it for some time and then rinse the mouth with cold water. Repeat this twice a day.
8. Fennel seeds
These help in stimulate the saliva flow. It will help you get rid of the dry mouth. The aromatic flavour of the fennel seeds will help you get rid of the bad breath. Chew some fennel seeds along with fenugreek seeds several times a day. You can also roast the seeds, grind them and add a little salt. Eat ½ tsp of this mixture after every meal.
Treatment Of Cracked Tongue
Once you have identified the disease and its cause you can now move on for the treatment. In the case of cracked tongue, it is important to know that most of the patients resolve the condition by leaving it alone and not following any treatment plans. It is easy but takes a long time. Here are few tips that might help boost the treatment process.
1. Dental Hygiene
The cracks and grooves in the tongue create many hiding spots for the bacteria. Make sure to brush your teeth regularly. Use a tongue cleaner. It will keep food and microorganisms out of the crack and prevent their growth. Use a soft toothbrush and brush using gentle motions. Switch to a mildly flavoured toothpaste like spearmint.
Don’t deprive your tongue of moisture. Drink lot of water. Increase the intake of fluids. Proper hydration helps the body to produce more saliva. Eat some frozen chunks of water based on vegetables and fruits like watermelon, pineapple, and cucumber. Drink vegetable and fruit smoothies. You can also drink coconut water daily. Drink herbal teas like green tea and chamomile tea. Eat liquid foods like stews and soups.
3. Avoid Irritants
Your tongue is extra sensitive. Avoid salty, acidic or spicy food until the cracks are resolved. Eating such food will aggravate the conditions. If a chipped tooth or brace is giving you discomfort, keep your tongue away from them. Talk to your orthodontist about feasible solutions.
4. Dietary changes
If you have iron or biotin deficiency, increase the consumption of chicken, mushroom, egg or cauliflower. Cut back coffee, tea, tobacco and alcohol.
Oral thrush can be treated with anti-fungal medications. In the case of geographic tongue, you can take some pain relievers and anaesthetic mouth rinses. The hairy tongue can be treated with antibiotics. Whatever is the cause of the disease, consult your orthodontist before taking any medications.
Prevention Of Cracked Tongue
As prevention is always better than cure, here are few tips and measures for you to adopt so that you can prevent the condition of cracked tongue:
1. Avoid Smoking
Smoking has many effects on the body. It is best to stay away from cigarettes. Stopping the intake of cigarettes will reduce the fungal infections and promote the healing process.
2. Say no to spicy and hot foods
If eating hot and spicy food causes pain in your mouth, it is time to abandon these foods till your mouth is fully recovered, When sores in the mouth are exposed to acidic beverages, or heat, they worsen and slow up the healing process.
3. Avoid stress
Research has shown that stressful conditions can have harmful effects on the person’s health. Managing these stressful conditions requires and concentration. The traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that a red tongue indicates psychological stress or too much concentration.
If you have some unusual sores in your tongue, consult your orthodontist immediately.
Take proper care of your mouth. Take adequate amount of iron and biotin intake. Avoid biting your tongue. Limit the intake of hot beverages including tea, coffee, etc. Always keep hydrated.
To conclude, we can say that pain caused by the cracked tongue can be unbearable. Maintaining oral hygiene is the best way to avoid or get rid of cracked tongue, but sometimes you need to maintain the defensive capabilities of the body’s immune system.
Ensure that your diet has sufficient amount of all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Follow the guidelines and get the proper, recommended treatment of cracked tongue from a specialist.