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What is Fissured Tongue?

Fissures closeup

Fissured tongue is characterized by cracks or "fissures".  It can also be called "Plicated" or "Scrotal Tongue" and many doctors will tell you that it is "normal", "benign", "harmless" and are much like wrinkles and therefore nothing to be worried about.But as you'll see in a moment... that may not be entirely true... your doctor may be misinformed.

Between 2% and 5% of the worldwide population suffers from fissured tongue. Fissures come in a variety of forms and as in the picture above left can be branching and often occur at the center of the tongue.

Sometimes (as in the picture to the right) the cracks are small and can only be seen by "rolling" the tongue with the teeth and thus stretching the surface or spreading the cracks.

Teri- Fissures

In other cases, they can be quite severe and instantly obvious.Chinese medicine believes that all tongue issues indicate conditions in the body and that cracks may indicate a "Yin deficiency" often the result of dehydration or drinking insufficient amounts of water.

Sub-clinical dehydration (i.e. not serious enough to warrant a visit to the doctor by itself) is more common than you would think even in countries with plentiful supplies of pure fresh water. See How Dehydration Relates to Tongue Problems for more information.

Often a median crack is prominent as in the picture to the right but in many cases this type of crack (note it is not branching like the first one) is normal and is probably hereditary.The upper right corner shows typical geographic tongue with the bald patches.This medial crack is brown colored however and may be the beginning of a Black or Brown tongue. This can be the result of difficulty in cleaning because of the nature of the crack.

Beefy, scalloped, Fissured Tongue

If you have tongue fissures you certainly want to take special efforts to clean your tongue and a good gentle tongue scraper is a necessity. In some ways "scraper" is a misnomer. You should be gentle with your tongue. Too vigorous a scraping can damage the surface... although it generally will replace itself in 7 to 10 days. A better name might be "tongue cleaner".

I prefer the Therabreath tongue cleaner because it is not too tall or wide and so it is easier to get all the way to the back of the tongue without gagging.It also has ridges on the head that hold more material than a single "wire" so it takes fewer swipes to get the tongue clean.

And being plastic it is very inexpensive and easy to keep clean. I've been using mine for years and it is strong and not flimsy, so I don't think there is any danger of breakage.

Tongue Scraper

Although each tongue problem can occur separately, often a tongue will exhibit a variety of tongue problems all at once. This is one factor that leads me to agree with Chinese medicine that tongue problems are indicative of larger issues.The tongue to the right has a long fissure near the center but this is not like the hereditary medial crack that we saw above in that it is more jagged and not quite centered.

Actually if you look closely near the back where the white patches are you can see where the medial crack probably is. It is not pronounced in this tongue but if you look closely you will see a couple of small white patches are sitting in the "valley".  And that brings us to the next problem with this tongue which is "Thrush" aka. "Yeast" or "Candida". The white spots in the center back and on the tip are "Thrush" although the glare of the flash makes the ones on the tip difficult to get a good look at. See Do you have a fuzzy patch on your tongue? for more information.And finally there are the Scallops around the edges. Scallops are often called "tooth marks" and can be caused by "tongue thrusting" or subconsciously pushing the tongue against the teeth resulting in indentations. In this case however, I think the scallops are probably more a result of the shaping of the fissures than from the teeth. See What is Scalloped Tongue? for more information about scallops.


This tongue has relatively minor fissures covering much of its surface but it is interesting to note that this tongue belongs to a young teenage girl and so if the underlying issues are not addressed the fissures will probably get worse as she ages.

Over the years I have found that fissures are harder to eliminate than other issues like geographic tongue or even thrush (which can be  persistent at times). But fissures require a bit more dedication to eliminate. In my experience, sometimes they are the result of mineral deficiencies such as iron, magnesium or zinc. And sometimes they are the result of toxicities, allergies or heavy metals. If you have tongue fissures I strongly recommend that you have a hair analysis done to determine if you are suffering from exposure to something like Mercury or Lead.

I recently received a copy of the hair analysis of one of the readers of my book "Treating and Beating Geographic Tongue and Other Tongue Problems" and he is suffering from severe tongue fissures and so I was not surprised by the results of his hair analysis which showed high levels of  Arsenic and Uranium!  But doctors say tongue fissures are "normal" and "nothing to worry about" without even checking for these high toxicities!

Here are his results:

hair analysis


Note from the table above that his levels are above the 95th percentile for these two toxic metals. In addition his overall "Total Toxic Representation" is almost off the chart! In addition to Arsenic and Uranium his Lead, Nickel and Tin levels are also very high. No wonder his tongue has cracks!

So if you are suffering from tongue fissures I would strongly suggest that you have a hair analysis done immediately. You might be able to convince your doctor to order one for you at a cost of a visit and several hundred dollars for the test or you can order it yourself relatively inexpensively here:   Hair Analysis Testing for Heavy Metals.

Read More About Tongue Problems:

Fissured tongue and other tongue problems are covered in more detail in my book  “Treating and Beating Geographic Tongue and Other Tongue Problems”

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Dorothy Chambers testimonial

If you would like more information see:

My Fissured Tongue

By Lawrae B.

When I First Heard My Dentist Say, “You Have Geographic Tongue.”

 Hello, Tim.

I'm 20 yrs old and I remember when I first heard my dentist say, "Oh, you have a geographic tongue."

Lawrae's Fissured Tongue

Lawrae's Fissured Tongue

I felt like an animal in a zoo.  He showed someone else and I felt like I was on exhibit.  I'm pretty sure I was around 12 or 13, but I think I had it before that.  Although it never was beautiful, as you will see from my photos, it has gotten worse.  I actually think it looks worse than any of the other pic's you had on your site.  Except for the picture of severe geographic tongue and fissures.  I was so glad to find your site.  It was very informative and I did not feel so alone anymore.

A dentist or doctor telling me it's no big deal, as you know, makes me want to yell- "Yeah, not to you.  You don't have to deal with it!"  I have felt so alone and lonely.  It has also affected me socially.  I'm a very playful person and I can't remember ever feeling comfortable just sticking my tongue out at someone.  Now that I think of it, it would be great to be able to do that.

But, I've always tried to hide my tongue and have worried about people seeing it when I laugh.  You can tell by the look of revulsion on their faces.  Even my own mother is apologetically disgusted by it.  I have tried to keep the same friends I have had since grade school so that I don't have uncomfortable, embarrassing and humiliating moments.  Guys also react to it differently, depending on how weird or understanding they are.

But, like you pointed out, there is not much info on the subject, so how CAN people be empathetic?!  Some say it's cool, others say it must be painful.  Others say its alright, but I know if I didn't have it, I'd think it was disgusting.  They all lied.  Even looking at my own pictures, which I just took tonight kinda disgusts me.  I have not noticed many changes because I think I avoid looking at it.  I will start to observe it from now on.

Your site gave me comfort though.  It's amazing that so many other people have it.  I've never seen anyone else's GT.  So it was really cool to see pictures and gave me the  idea of sending you some of mine.  I can't imagine how much mail you get with people telling you their stories, so I will try to keep mine short and hope that you might find time in your busy schedule to write back with comments.

As far back as I can remember, it has always given me pain, especially when eating tomatoes, oranges,  pineapples  and other foods that contain citric acid.  I only experience the burning sensation on the sides, top, and tips of my tongue, though.  I love these foods but have sometimes used the pain as an excuse not to eat them.  Most of the time, though, I suffer through it.  Once in a while, the pain is so excruciating that I have to yell, which makes my family and friends look at me funny.

I may have scraped my tongue too hard because it hurts right Or maybe I need a drink.  Or maybe just thinking about it is causing me to have sympathy pain.  Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your site.  It has been very helpful and informative.  I will start a food diary to get a better idea of what foods bother my tongue.  It makes complete sense that it could be a B12 deficiency for me in particular, because I lose my temper easily and am a very nervous person.  And I mean, even if I hear someone walking behind me and see their shadow, if they say boo I jump a mile.  I also get depressed but have not gotten diagnosed because I heard it was a big pain.  My grandmother has schizo-affective disorder and I'm theorizing that B12 could help her too?  I didn't know that there was a good reason for my nervousness, stress, and temper, but it sounds like this deficiency is at least part of the problem.  Thank you very much for your insight and sharing your experience and others.  I hope that you and your family are doing fine and I look forward to hearing from you, if possible.  I am now going to look for further information, now that I have wet my palette.  Hee, hee.  A pun.  Thank you for listening.

Going surfing,


fissured tongue
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About the Author Tim McMahon

Download Tongue Problems Infographic

Often tongue problems are all lumped together as “Geographic Tongue” but there are many varieties, each with a separate solution. Our Tongue Problems Infographic displays pictures and descriptions of the most common tongue problems. To receive your copy, just enter your email address below.

  • Tim McMahon says:


    It looks like at the moment you have mostly tongue fissures or cracks. I only see a small hint of the white rings on the side. Definately check out the chapter in the Healthy Tongue Secrets Book on Tongue Fissures! Good Luck.

    To Your Health,


    • Matt Harris says:

      Hello Tim I am 20 years old I have a geographic tongue and cracks on my tongue as well, which means fissured tongue because of this I am now in deep depression and need to get rid of it, I’m considering buying your book but does the geographic tongue go permanently or do you need to always take vitamins etc to keep it from coming and in your book does it methods on how to heal the cracks.

  • Angela Ng says:

    Please advise me how to cure my dfissured tongue ? Any medical recommend ?

    • Tim McMahon says:

      I am not a Doctor so I can’t give medical advice but Fissured (cracked) tongue is one of the hardest problems to resolve. Could be related to heavy metal toxicity… other possibilities are also listed in the book.

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