What Does Scalloped Tongue Mean? + More…

scalloped tongue

Our body is fascinating, and it is amazing how we all have the same underlying structure of muscles, sinew, ligaments, bones, and joints.

It is even more amazing how there is so much individuality amongst humans, from skin color to height and facial features.

Keeping these differences in mind, sometimes it can be hard to know what is normal in us and what is a cause of concern.

You may look at yourself in the mirror and see, spot something odd and begin to worry.

You also don’t want to make an unnecessary trip to the doctors and have them tell them there is nothing to worry about.

In much the same way, you may look at your tongue and wonder if its appearance is something normal or a cause for concern.

Keep reading to learn about scalloped tongue and what it means for your oral health.

Scalloped Tongue – Another Symptom of A Bad Bite?

What Is Scalloped Tongue?

A scalloped tongue does not mean that your tongue starts to look like a scallop, although that would be something to see.

Scalloped tongues are called by various names like rippled tongue, pie crust tongue, wavy tongue, crenated tongue, and lingua indentata.

In a scalloped tongue, you are likely to find that there are indents or ridges on your tongue.

The notches on a crenated tongue are rarely painful and are not indicative of your oral health, and there is usually an underlying health condition that causes a scalloped tongue.

You may find that there is tongue swelling along with your scalloped tongue and that the sides of your mouth have become sensitive and red.

This occurs when your tongue presses against the corners of your mouth or when there is excessive friction.

You may experience a sore throat and overall slight redness along with additional mild symptoms of the condition causing tongue scalloping.

What Does A Scalloped Tongue Indicate?

A scalloped tongue is not a diagnosis; rather, it indicates underlying medical conditions.

In order to treat a scalloped tongue, you need to be aware of the underlying medical condition.

In most health conditions, the underlying condition that leads to a scalloped tongue is inflammation, which results in a swollen tongue.

There are many scalloped tongue causes, from congenital hypothyroidism to sleep habits, that may lead to an enlarged tongue along with swelling and inflammation.

1) Obstructive Sleep Apnea

We need to look at scalloped tongue causes so that we can better treat the condition.

When we talk about a scalloped tongue, we have to consider the underlying cause, which has led to tongue enlargement and notching.

If you only address the tongue scalloping and not the underlying cause, it may cause reoccurrences once this treatment is stopped.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes breathing problems during sleep.

In sleep apnea, people deal with sudden stopping and starting of their breathing which can cause them to wake up suddenly.

In this condition, many people find themselves tongue thrusting in an attempt to expand their airways.

This constant pushing of the tongue can lead to the development of scalloped edges on the tongue.

A condition that can be confused with sleep apnea is intermittent nocturnal hypoxia; while it is among sleep disorders, it can not be classified as sleep apnea.

This is a condition that causes tongue scalloping in community-dwelling Japanese people.

2) Temporomandibular Joint Disorders

The temporomandibular joint is a hinge joint.

It is made through the joining of the lower jaw (the mandible) and the temporal bone of the skull, hence the name. It is located anteriorly and slightly to the side of the face on both sides.

Disorders of this joint can be due to issues in the joint itself or in the ligaments and muscles around the joint.

These issues can arise for a variety of reasons like arthritis, wear and tear an incorrect bite, or trauma.

The joint can become stuck or misaligned in these disorders, leading to pain. When this happens, your tongue has to act in place of the joint to keep your jaw held correctly in place. To do this, your tongue has to exert immense pressure against the lower part of your mouth and teeth. This is what leads to the formation of a scalloped tongue.

3) Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition that is related to the thyroid hormones that are produced by the thyroid gland.

In this condition, the thyroid hormone levels are below normal.

This can be for a number of different reasons such as autoimmune, medication, treatment with radiation, removal of the thyroid, and even congenital.

When there are low levels of thyroid hormone, the overall health is affected. Numerous other symptoms may accompany the scalloped tongue.

These symptoms include weight gain, heat intolerance, low blood pressure, along with a number of other symptoms.

Hypothyroidism can also lead to other conditions like heart disease and obesity.

What Does A Thyroid Tongue Look Like?

A thyroid tongue appears scalloped or indented along with appearing discolored, dry, and may be painful.

These oral symptoms can help you come to a diagnosis of hypothyroidism.

4) Anxiety

One reason for scalloped tongue may be high levels of stress and anxiety.

The stress and anxiety won’t cause scalloped tongue directly; rather, the habits people develop in these conditions are what causes scalloped tongue.

Some people may find themselves grinding their teeth along with other habits that can lead to a scalloped tongue.

The repetition of teeth grinding, jaw clenching, or pushing your tongue against your mouth repeatedly leads to indentations or notches in the tongue.

5) Genetic Conditions

You are born with certain conditions that may include a scalloped tongue as one of its symptoms.

These conditions are down syndrome, Apert syndrome, and hypothyroidism.

Each of these conditions comes with a variety of other signs.

6) Parafunctional Activities

When we say parafunctional activities, we really mean bad habits. Bad habits are a cause of many health issues.

In the same way, eating unhealthy foods can lead to obesity and atherosclerosis; bad habits regarding your mouth can cause the development of a scalloped tongue.

Bad habits related to your oral cavity usually develop because of other problems you may have like anxiety, disturbed sleep, systemic disease, misalignment of your teeth, and trauma.

These bad habits can be anything from teeth picking, teeth grinding, or cheek sucking.

When done repeatedly over time, any of these habits will lead to an indentation in your tongue.

These indentations or rippling in your tongue is what causes the scalloped appearance in your tongue.

7) Allergic Reaction

Our body has a built-in protection system known as out immunity.

The immune system’s role is to protect our body from harmful substances that could cause it harm.

There are numerous ways that the body does this, from increasing our body temperature (better known as a fever) to kill off bacteria to releasing chemical factors to kill molecules.

Ocassioanly our body reacts adversely to a substance that is not harmful, but our body sees it as an intruder.

This is what happens in an allergic reaction. Our body releases many chemicals to kill off the allergen, which leads to redness, inflammation, and swelling.

The pressure of the tongue against the teeth can cause ridging and notching seen in a scalloped tongue.

When this happens in the tongue, the soft tissues of the tongue swells.

This enlarged tongue is now much larger and pushes against the oral cavity.

Complications Of Scalloped tongue

It is rare that there are any complications that are directly related to a scalloped tongue.

While the constant pressure of the tongue may cause pain and irritation, it is rarely a serious issue in itself.

It is the conditions that are causing the scalloped tongue that can lead to complications if they are not treated.

People whose scalloped tongue is caused by sleep disturbance may find themselves with heart issues, constant fatigue, and daytime sleepiness.

At the same time, those with untreated hypothyroidism may find themselves at an increased risk for a cardiac event along with nerve damage and breathing issues due to a large thyroid.


A proper diagnosis should be the main aim for those experiencing a scalloped tongue.

While the scalloped tongue itself is not an area of concern, the cause of this symptom is.

With an accurate diagnosis, you can choose the right scalloped tongue treatment.

Scalloped-Tongue Treatment

The treatment of scalloped tongues is dependent on the cause.

If the cause is teeth grinding, then wearing a mouthguard on your lower teeth can help to ease pressure on your teeth and prevent grinding.

If it is due to an allergic reaction, anti-inflammatory medications are a perfect choice of treatment.

Common scalloped tongue home remedies include the use of cold compresses or warm compresses, while other treatments include seeing an occupational therapist or using mouth guards.


A scalloped tongue is usually one of many symptoms of an underlying issue rather than a problem itself.

When it comes to a scalloped tongue, it is important to know the cause to use targeted treatment and home remedies to correct the issue.