Scalloped Tongue: What Causes It? Should I Worry About It?

Scalloped tongue can have many different causes. Heres a list of many common causes and how best to treat them.
Scalloped Tongue

A scalloped tongue has grooves along the outer edges which correspond with the shape of your teeth. It can also be known as wavey, rippled, or crenated tongue.

Scalloping on the tongue is common and usually noticed by patients in the mirror. It is often nothing to worry about. However in some cases, it could point to an underlying dental or health issue. In this article I will cover the causes of scalloped tongue and what can be done to treat it.

What causes scalloped tongue?

There are many different causes of scalloped tongue, some of which are listed below:

Clenching and grinding your teeth

Some people clench and grind their teeth, usually when asleep. They may also push their tongue tightly against the back of the teeth whilst doing this, which leads to the scalloping of the tongue. This habit can also damage the teeth, and cause jaw pain in the Temporomandibular Joints (TMJ) and muscles along the side of the face.

How can a dentist help with clenching and grinding?

A dentist can examine your tongue and the way you bite. If there has been damage to the teeth or discomfort from the joints and muscles, the dentist may make a Night Bite Guard or Splint. This can be worn at night to help protect the teeth and encourage muscles to relax. In some cases, steroid or botox injections can be given to relax the jaw muscles to help with symptoms. Preventing clenching and grinding can help to reduce the appearance of scalloped tongue.

Night Bite Guard
A custom night bite guard made to protect teeth from clenching and grinding


People who suffer with anxiety often clench or grind, and push their tongue against their teeth. They use it as an unconscious coping mechanism when feeling stressed.

How can I stop clenching when stressed?

Being aware if you clench your teeth, and trying to relax and breathe when you find yourself doing so. Strategies such as practising mindfulness, meditation and yoga may also help with anxiety in general. If symptoms become difficult to manage, then seek help from a medical/dental professional.

Sleep Disorders

Sleep apnoea is blocking of the airway during sleep, due to the relaxation of the throat muscle. This can make it difficult to breathe, and so you may push your tongue against the teeth to try to open the airways. This act of pushing, can cause scalloped tongue. [1] Other symptoms of sleep apnoea include daytime sleepiness and a dry mouth.

What are the treatments for sleep apnoea?

If you think you may have sleep apnoea, it is important to see a health professional. If diagnosed, you could have a snoring appliance made in order to help maintain your airway while sleeping, or a CPAP Device to help you breathe at night.


Not drinking enough water can cause an enlarged tongue. It may not have enough space behind the arch of the teeth and become scalloped.

Drink 6-8 glasses of water every day, especially when exercising or during hot weather spells. This will help prevent tongue swelling.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Not getting enough Iron or Vitamin B12 can lead to your tongue becoming red and swollen. This may encroach on the teeth and leave it scalloped. 

A healthy balanced diet, which includes the above vitamins. Iron can be found in meat, beans and nuts. B12 is in fish and milk.


Smoking increases inflammation in the body, causes dry mouth and dehydration, which exacerbate scalloped tongue.

If you smoke, help is available to help you to stop. This will not only help with your tongue but also your general health will vastly improve. 

Symptom of a underlying problem

An enlarged tongue can be a sign of some underlying problems. These include hyperthyroidism, Amyloidosis, and  genetic disorders such as Down’s syndrome.

Should I see a Doctor for Scalloped Tongue?

If you have been through all the causes above and are concerned about your scalloped tongue. you should see a health professional.

What should I do now?

If you think you may have a scalloped tongue, visit a dentist to diagnose and help treat it. Find a dentist near you. 

Dr Jarri Amini

Dr Jarri Amini

BDS (Honours) London 2012. Jarri has worked as a General Dentist in West Yorkshire for over 10 years. He firmly believes that educating patients about their oral health is one of the most impactful aspects of his job. He has worked on the NHS and in Private Practice.

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