There are many possible causes for a cracked tongue. They include vitamin deficiencies and underlying conditions, such as psoriasis.

Cracked tongue is formally known as lingua plicata. According to The American Academy of Oral Medicine, about 5% of people in the United States have cracked tongue, which is sometimes called fissured tongue.

In this article, we explore the symptoms and causes of cracked tongue. We also look into ways to prevent infection and when to see a doctor.

There is no definitive cause of cracked tongue, but older research has pointed to a genetic link, suggesting that it may run in families.

Also, a 2016 study found a possible association between cracked tongue and smoking.

Vitamin deficiencies

In rare cases, malnutrition can cause cracked tongue. A different study from 2016 found a link between cracked tongue and vitamin B12 deficiency.

Meanwhile, research from 2015 indicates that pain associated with cracked tongue may stem from deficiencies in:

  • B vitamins
  • zinc
  • iron

The researchers note, however, that the pain is also likely linked to poor oral hygiene, the use of medication, and esophageal reflux.

Still, it is rare for people with cracked tongue to experience pain routinely.

Other health issues

Cracked tongue may also have links to:

  • geographic tongue, which causes smooth, often raised patches to form on the tongue
  • psoriasis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome, an immune disorder
  • Cowden syndrome, which causes the formation of noncancerous tumors
  • acromegaly, a hormonal disorder
  • orofacial granulomatosis, a rare inflammatory disorder
  • Down syndrome
  • Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome, a rare neurological disorder

If a person has cracked tongue and geographic tongue, any pain may stem from the latter issue, which can cause burning pain and a loss of taste.

Cracked tongue is characterized by one or more grooves running along the tongue’s surface.

The number and depth of the grooves, or fissures, varies. If the fissures are very deep, the tongue may seem to have distinct sections. In most cases of cracked tongue, a single groove runs down the tongue’s center.

Beyond the appearance, cracked tongue usually causes no symptoms. People sometimes experience a burning sensation, especially when they consume acidic foods or drinks.

Research suggests that cracked tongue is more common — and the fissures more severe — in older people. Also, it is more prevalent in males than in females.

Cracked tongue does not usually require treatment. People typically have no symptoms, other than the tongue’s characteristic appearance.

However, it is crucial to remove any debris, such as food, that can get stuck in the tongue’s grooves. Doing so can prevent infections and issues with oral hygiene.

When a person has cracked tongue, bacteria or fungi, such as Candida albicans, can proliferate in the tongue’s grooves, leading to an infection.

In the case of a Candida, or yeast, infection, a doctor can prescribe a topical antifungal medication. This type of infection is more common in people who also have geographic tongue and in people who do not brush or otherwise clean their tongues.

For anyone with cracked tongue, it is important to have good oral hygiene, including regular visits to the dentist.

Prevent food debris from collecting in the grooves of the tongue is key. To do this, a person might use a tongue brush or scraper as part of their oral hygiene routine.

One 2013 study found that tongue brushing and scraping alongside regular tooth brushing not only keeps the tongue clean but also reduces plaque.

Learn more about tongue scraping here.

If the grooves of a cracked tongue trap food, it can cause bacteria or yeast to proliferate, leading to an infection or other oral health issues.

Anyone with a cracked tongue who experiences symptoms of an oral health problem should receive professional attention.

Overall, it is a good idea to visit a dentist regularly.

Cracked tongue often causes no symptoms, though some people experience a burning sensation, especially when consuming acidic foods or drinks.

If bacteria or fungi proliferate in the tongue’s cracks, or grooves, an infection can develop.

Good oral hygiene, including cleaning the tongue’s grooves, is key to preventing infection and other oral health issues, such as tooth decay and bad breath.