Scalloped tongue

Scalloped tongue

A scalloped tongue is a condition where the sides of the tongue have a wave-like appearance. The indentations are usually shallow and benign but in some cases, they can be deeper. A scalloped tongue can affect anyone, but it is more common in children. It is not usually a cause for concern, but you should talk to a doctor if you are concerned. 


In most cases, a scalloped tongue occurs due to swelling or inflammation of the tongue. Tongue swelling is also called macroglossia. Each cause of macroglossia or swelling of the tongue results in other symptoms too. Knowing the different symptoms can help you understand what might be at the root of your tongue issues. 

Genetic condition or birth defect:

Some disorders or diseases you’re born with may lead to macroglossia and a scalloped tongue. These include:

Down syndrome

Apert syndrome

Congenital hypothyroidism

Each of these conditions has unique symptoms.

Parafunctional habits:

Better known as bad habits, parafunctional habits are considered the leading cause of scalloped tongues. Bad habits include teeth grinding, cheek sucking, and picking at the teeth. Many things can lead to a person performing parafunctional activities such as stress, sleep disorders, systemic disease, poor tooth alignment or tooth loss, and trauma. 

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies:

A scalloped tongue can occur when the body does not get enough of certain vitamins and minerals, especially B vitamins, which can lead to tongue enlargement.

Common nutritional deficiencies that cause scalloped tongue include:

Vitamin B-12





Low levels of thyroid hormone characterize this thyroid disorder. When thyroid hormone levels are low, you may experience the following symptoms in addition to tongue swelling and scalloped edges:


Hair loss

Aches and cramps


Low blood pressure


Dehydration can cause swelling, which may cause the tongue to become compressed in the mouth and indented by the teeth. 


A buildup of proteins in organs characterizes this disease. The accumulation can occur in your organs, soft tissues, and tongue. If it occurs in the tongue or mouth, you may experience swelling or inflammation. The large, swollen tongue can push against your teeth and create scalloped edges over time.


Smoking causes an immune response and irritates the mucosal tissues, increasing the risk of swelling and inflammation. Smoking also increases the risk of dehydration, a factor known to influence the likelihood of developing a scalloped tongue.

Sleep apnea:

A scalloped tongue may be a sign of sleep apnea due to difficulty breathing while you‘re sleeping. You may subconsciously push your tongue down in your teeth when you open the airway, which can lead to a scalloped tongue.

Temporomandibular joint conditions:

Injuries or chronic conditions involving the temporomandibular joint that connects the jaw to the skull may cause a scalloped tongue. People with temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD ) may develop indents in their tongues because of dehydration, teeth-grinding, or because the tongue is pushing against the lower teeth to accommodate the misaligned joint. Scalloped tongue is most commonly associated with TMD cases in women and those involving frequent headaches. 

Further symptoms

Scalloped tongue usually does not cause any server symptoms. However, it can be related to an underlying condition that causes symptoms. These symptoms include:


Sore throat

Tenderness or soreness

Overall slight redness

Is scalloped tongue dangerous?

No, it is not dangerous. In most cases, it requires treatment. However, it may cause underlying conditions in rare cases. If you get symptoms you should talk to your doctor. The complications from scalloped tongue are most often dependent on the cause. Without treatment, symptoms may become worse. 

For example, untreated sleep apnea can cause fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure. Untreated hypothyroidism can cause complications like an enlarged thyroid gland, nerve damage, and increased heart disease.


Getting a proper diagnosis is necessary. Diagnosing underlying condition cause symptoms help you and your doctor make sure you’re using the correct form of treatment. It also reduces the complications. When you visit a doctor you will talk about your overall health, any changes you experience, and any symptoms you may experience during scalloped tongue. 

Make sure your doctor requests your test series. A Biopsy, a tissue sample, may help check protein levels or look for other symptoms that can explain your symptoms.


The treatment depends on the scalloped causes. For severe cases, surgery may be necessary to restore the tongue’s shape. 

Potential medical treatment options include:

Anti-inflammatory medications

Dental devices, such as mouthguards, are available for purchase online

Thyroid hormone medications

Nasal dilators

Surgery to reduce size and correct shape

Surgery to remove abnormal cells or tissues

It causes severe conditions such as tuberculosis and cancer and will require those underlying conditions to be treated.

Home remedies include:

Staying hydrated

Eating a healthy, balanced diet

Practicing good oral hygiene

Quitting smoke

Applying warm compresses

Treating chronic or underlying medical conditions

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