The tongue is one of the most specialized organs in our body that can provide you a brief snapshot of your overall health. You can tell if a tongue is healthy or not by just looking at it.
A healthy tongue is soft, pink in color and can easily move around in your mouth. But in some benign conditions, fissures or grooves start to develop primarily on the dorsum of the tongue. Such a state is identified as a Scrotal Tongue.
Common causes of scrotal tongue are poor nutrition, specific health conditions, and infection.
In this article, we will have a detailed view of the symptoms, causes and treatment modalities for a scrotal tongue.
What is scrotal tongue?
As the name suggests, the scrotal tongue has a plicate, fissured or furrowed appearance which makes the tongue wrinkled. A scrotal tongue is a common oral condition with a prevalence of 6.8% to 11% among adults but can occur in children as well. (1)
It is also known as Lingua plicata, Fissured tongue, Furrowed tongue, Lingua fissurata, Lingua scrotalis, and Grooved tongue. (2)
It is usually hereditary, and most of the times it goes unnoticed. The clinical signs become prominent with age. Even though the grooves formed on the tongue look unsettling, this condition is often painless.
What does a scrotal tongue clinically look like?
The grooves formed during this condition are commonly present on the sides or top surface of the tongue. Majority of the fissures or grooves occur in the middle one-third of the tongue, giving it a wrinkly appearance.
The depth of the grooves can go as deep as six millimeters or as shallow as two millimeters. Often the groves interconnect to give the appearance of prominent lobes separating the tongue. These grooves or fissures on affect the tongue.
Although scrotal tongue is hereditary, it may also be a result of a degenerative process. The prevalence among adults significantly increases with age, commonly occurring after the age of 40.
The Scrotal tongue affects about 2% to 5% of the total population of the United States. Rates in other countries vary.
What are the symptoms of the scrotal tongue?
Usually, this condition has no symptoms as such. Sometimes a burning sensation while eating certain acidic or spicy foods is the only symptom.
If the grooves deepen they start to act as a home for the accumulation of food particles and bacteria. In some instances, it may also cause fungal infections of the tongue or even bad breath.
Some other symptoms include difficulty in swallowing or eating and severe burning of the tongue when the tongue contacts water.
What are the causes of the scrotal tongue?
Often this condition is hereditary and is not noticeable immediately. But it starts to become more noticeable with age. (3)
Although the cause is still unknown, it is thought that poor nutrition, infection, or specific health conditions can be a common cause of scrotal tongue.
The three medical conditions associated with a scrotal tongue are –
- Down syndrome
- Benign migratory glossitis
- Cowden syndrome
- Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome
Down syndrome is a hereditary condition which is caused by having a partial or full copy of chromosome 21.
Benign Migratory Glossitis
Also known as the geographic tongue, this condition is identified as patches of a shiny and smooth surface on the tongue along with rough areas where the taste buds are regular.
The dorsum of the tongue is shed off, and the tongue is left red and tender, appearing like a geographical map.
This condition is a rare autosomal dominant inherited disorder which is characterized by multiple tumor-like growths. A scrotal tongue is sometimes a clinical feature of Cowden syndrome.
Melkersson – Rosenthal syndrome
Melkersson – Rosenthal syndrome is a neurological disorder that includes swelling of the face, mainly lips, and facial nerve palsy. (4)
Other cause may include
- Rubbing of the tongue on broken leading to an uneven surface associated with recurrent pain
- Accidental chewing on tongue usually during stress and anxiety
- Food allergies
- Acid reflux
- Habitual tobacco consumption
- Cancerous or benign growths around the tongue
- Oral candida infections
- Nutritional deficiencies like Vitamin B, biotin
- Sjogren’s syndrome – salivary gland disorder
How to diagnosis scrotal tongue?
A dentist usually diagnoses it on a regular dental check-up or while treating the teeth or other dental problem. A physician can diagnose this condition while checking for any throat infection.
What can you do at home?
- Avoid eating foods such as acidic or spicy food that can cause your tongue to burn.
- Always try to clean your tongue gently at least once or twice a day with a tongue scraper or just a soft toothbrush.
- Clean the tongue before or after brushing your teeth.
- Keep yourself well hydrated, especially if you are experiencing a dry mouth.
Treatment and cure for scrotal tongue
There is no treatment as such for a scrotal tongue. But if you experience excessive discomfort or pain, consult a dentist or a physician to find out the cause and to prevent any complications.
If the cause of scrotal tongue is an injury or an infection, ask your dentist or physician to prescribe antibiotics that will help you to get rid of the infection and heal the injury.
Take away message
A scrotal tongue is a benign and harmless oral condition. More often people don’t realize or notice that they have scrotal tongue until it is diagnosed clinically.
A dentist or physician can diagnose this condition by just looking at your tongue. A scrotal tongue is a condition that persists for lifelong, but it usually does not cause any discomfort.
A good oral care routine will help you to maintain a clean tongue and avoid any symptoms. This should include cleaning your tongue daily with a toothbrush or a tongue scraper.
Consult your dentist if the grooves become uncomfortable. Be aware and stay healthy.