A fissured tongue is benign but may need extra oral care to remove debris. If cracks hurt or develop sores, it may be due to another health condition that needs medical attention.

When you look in the mirror and stick out your tongue, do you see cracks? You could be one of the 5 percent of the U.S. population who has a fissured tongue.

A fissured tongue is a benign (noncancerous) condition. It’s recognized by one or more deep or shallow cracks — called grooves, furrows, or fissures — on the top surface of your tongue. A fissured tongue is also called:

  • cracked tongue
  • lingua plicata
  • scrotal tongue

The symptoms of a fissured tongue are cracks on top surface of the tongue. Sometimes they extend to the tongue’s edges. The depth and size of the cracks or fissures vary. They may or may not be connected.

Debris can sometimes get trapped in the cracks of deep grooves. As such, people with tongue cracks are encouraged to brush the top surface of their tongue to remove any debris. This will also help prevent irritation or infection from occurring.

Doctors don’t know why tongue cracks form. It’s believed to be hereditary. Sometimes a fissured tongue is seen alongside:

A fissured tongue has been associated with geographic tongue and psoriasis, especially pustular psoriasis.

People with a fissured tongue sometimes also have a condition known as geographic tongue. It’s also called benign migratory glossitis.

Geographic tongue is a harmless inflammatory condition that affects the tongue’s surface. Usually, the entire surface of the tongue is covered with small, pink-white bumps. But with geographic tongue, patches of those tiny bumps are missing. These patches are smooth and red, sometimes with slightly raised borders.

Geographic tongue doesn’t indicate infection or cancer. It typically doesn’t cause health problems.

Pustular psoriasis is a very uncommon form of psoriasis. It’s the most severe form. It can cover the body with a combination of painful red skin and raised bumps fill with pus.

Treatment is focused on relieving symptoms. It may include phototherapy and medication, such as:

If you have cracks in your tongue, you might have a fissured tongue. It’s not a health risk, but consider brushing your tongue to make sure debris doesn’t get stuck in the cracks.

If your tongue is painful or has lesions alongside tongue cracks, discuss your symptoms with your doctor. They can help you find treatment to get relief.