A scalloped tongue is defined by wave-like or rippled indentations along the sides of the tongue.
The notches of a scalloped tongue are not generally painful. Any discomfort might be due to an underlying condition responsible for the ripples. The lining of the mouth particularly on the sides near the tongue can turn reddened or sensitive. This is considered rare, but likely if placing significant pressure or friction on the skin.
This is rarely an indication of a serious health condition.
What are the causes?
Generally, a scalloped tongue develops due to inflammation of the tongue.
Some of the usual causes include the following:
- Genetic condition or birth defect – some conditions an individual is born with can progress to macroglossia as well as a scalloped tongue such as congenital hypothyroidism and Down syndrome
- Hypothyroidism – this results to low levels of thyroid hormone that can cause the tongue to swell and have scalloped edges along with other symptoms.
- Amyloidosis – there is buildup of proteins in the organs including the tongue. Once this occurs, it causes inflammation or swelling.
- Dehydration – this can cause generalized swelling including the tongue
- Temporomandibular joint disorders
- Sleep apnea
Management of a scalloped tongue
The treatment for a scalloped tongue is often based on the underlying cause.
- Genetic conditions – surgery can reduce the size of the tongue. Orthodontic or dental procedures can provide more space in the mouth so that the tongue fits better
- Hypothyroidism – prescribed drugs are the initial line of treatment which work by restoring the hormone levels to normal to lessen the symptoms.
- Amyloidosis – treatment involves chemotherapy and stem cell transplant
- Dehydration – increase the intake of fluids to avoid dehydration and eliminate any inflammation caused by it
- Anxiety – prescribed anti-anxiety drugs and therapy can lessen anxiety and reduce underlying issues that trigger behaviors leading to a scalloped tongue