Scalloped Tongue: Causes and Treatment Options

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If you notice indentations on the sides of your tongue, you may be wondering if it is cause for concern. The general term for this symptom is scalloped tongue, though your dentist may refer to it as tongue crenation. Here's a look at what causes this condition and how it may be treated.

What Is Tongue Crenation?

The Academy of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (AOMT) describes tongue scalloping as indentations in the sides of the tongue. The indentations appear directly next to the adjacent teeth, where the tongue presses into the teeth and creates these dents. Your dentist will easily notice these indentations when examining your mouth.

Causes of Scalloped Tongue

If you spot indentations in the sides of your tongue, you should see a dental or medical professional to discover the root cause. Conditions resulting in a scalloped tongue include those that cause tongue enlargement or that prompt the pushing of the tongue into the teeth. According to a study published in the Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives, these conditions may include:

  • Hypothyroidism, when your thyroid gland doesn't make enough of the thyroid hormone
  • Down syndrome, a genetic disorder
  • Angioedema, the swelling of area under the skin caused by an allergic reaction
  • Obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder where you stop breathing intermittently during sleep

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

By itself, a scalloped tongue is unlikely to cause you any problems, as the AOMT notes. However, sometimes, you may need treatment for the underlying health condition.

After examining your tongue, asking about your other symptoms and possibly perform some tests, your doctor or dentist will diagnosis the cause for your tongue indentations. If treatment is needed, it will likely involve collaboration across your medical and dental team.

Hypothyroidism, for example, may be treated through oral medications that increase your hormone levels and reduce the symptoms caused by a lack of the thyroid hormone, as the Mayo Clinic explains. There is no definitive or standard treatment for Down syndrome, but the National Institutes of Health notes that a team of professionals will support various therapies intended to give the patient the highest quality of life while controlling their symptoms. Angioedema may be treated through prescription drugs, including anti-itch, anti-inflammatory and immune-suppressing drugs, according to the Mayo Clinic. As for obstructive sleep apnea, the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine notes that this condition usually treated with by a device that delivers continuous air pressure during sleep or an oral appliance that helps to keep the air passages open while sleeping.

It's natural to be concerned if you see your tongue has developed indentations around the edges. With the help of a dental or medical professional, you can discover the cause of your tongue abnormality and, if needed, begin treatment.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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