Causes of a Scalloped Tongue

Causes of a Scalloped Tongue

Is a perfect tongue a sign of good health? According to Ayurveda, the answer is yes. Your tongue’s quality, shape, size, color, moisture, and texture are all indicators of certain bodily functions. According to Ayurveda, the tongue primarily gives insight into the health of one’s digestion, assimilation of nutrients, detoxification, and more.

One of the most common tongue concerns is something called a scalloped tongue. While the official medical descriptor is lingua indentata, a scalloped tongue is also known as a rippled tongue, pie crust tongue, or crenated tongue. A scalloped tongue has wavy or rippled edges.

Learn More about Ayurvedic Tongue Diagnosis: What Your Tongue Can Say About Your Health 

While very common, a scalloped tongue is rarely a sign of a serious condition, but it can be. If you are concerned about teeth marks on the sides of your tongue or you are experiencing a swollen tongue, see a medical doctor. While rarely serious, there is a surprisingly large number of studies suggesting that a scalloped tongue can be a canary in the coal mine linked to numerous health concerns, bad habits, poor diet, sleep issues, stress, anxiety, deficiencies, and more. Let’s dig in and review possible lifestyle and nutritional causes and see if we can shed some light on your scalloped tongue.

In This Article

Scalloped Tongue Cause #1: B Vitamin and B12 Deficiency

 A deficiency of niacin and riboflavin can cause a scalloped tongue. B vitamins and Vitamin B12 are two of the more common nutritional deficiencies that can lead to the scalloping of the tongue. The “scalloping” is most commonly caused by not eating enough vegetables rich in B vitamins, which causes the tongue to swell and therefore be irritated and scalloped by chewing.

A B12 deficiency, which is a common B vitamin deficiency, can also be to blame. A B12 deficiency can be caused by a vegetarian diet, antacid medications, and poor stomach acid production which is linked to a host of digestive imbalances. In addition, a deficiency in B12 can cause burning of the tongue as well as cognitive decline, neurological concerns, fatigue, and much more. Sublingual B12, such as our LifeSpa B12 Boost, may increase energy, focus, memory, and address a swollen tongue linked to a B12 deficiency.

 Find Out If You Are B12 Deficient and Why! Read All My Articles on B12 Here  

Scalloped Tongue Cause #2: Iron Deficiency 

The most common deficiency in the world has long been iron, which is vital in the oxygen-carrying potential of the blood. Iron anemias are extremely common, and most common in women of childbearing age and female athletes. During states of iron deficiency, the tongue can be affected in many ways ranging from dysphagia (trouble swallowing), burning, lack of taste, topical tongue texture change (“geographic” tongue),  swelling, and, of course, scalloping.

When getting tested for iron, be sure to ask your doctor for a ferritin test as well. Ferritin is the body’s “storage” form of iron and is often missed in the treatment of iron deficiencies. 

See also Iron Deficiency Anemia? Restore Your Ferritin Reserves

Scalloped Tongue Cause #3: Dehydration

Water is, surprisingly, not a great hydrator for the human body. Many people carry water bottles and drink excessive amounts of water that can bypass digestion and ultimately cause dehydration. Electrolytes hydrate the body and excessive water consumption can dilute these electrolytes, eventually causing dehydration. When the body is dehydrated and lacking electrolytes, the tongue can swell, causing the teeth to rub on the tongue while chewing.

If this is you, Try adding LifeSpa’s Clean Hydration to your water and drink enough water so your urine is straw color and not clear. Clear urine may be a sign of dehydration when you are not getting enough electrolytes.

See also The Urgent Need for Clean Hydration

Scalloped Tongue Cause #4: Stress and Anxiety

There are plenty of studies linking stress and anxiety to clenching the teeth, bruxism (grinding teeth), a tight jaw, TMJ issues, and biting the tongue that can result in teeth marks on the sides of the tongue. Mouth guards that keep your teeth from grinding are commonly recommended by dentists. In my practice, I have had great success teaching my patients how to loosen up the masseter and pterygoid muscles of the jaw offering relief for all the conditions mentioned above. Learn how to release the masseter and pterygoid muscles at home in my TMJ article.

Feeling Anxious? Read All My Articles for Stress and Anxiety Support Here 

Scalloped Tongue Cause #5: Sleep Apnea

One of the known side effects of chronic stress and anxiety is an increased risk of developing sleep apnea, which significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that having a scalloped tongue is linked to a higher risk of developing sleep apnea.

According to Ayurveda, the main cause of sleep apnea is a weak diaphragm that is not fully contracting and relaxing with each breath. When chronic levels of stress combine with our body’s stress responses, we slowly change our breathing pattern to be more shallow. With shallow breathing, the diaphragm weakens and the primary muscle behind our breath shifts from the diaphragm to the chest and upper chest. 

I have written numerous articles on this subject recommending the following breathing techniques to mitigate stress and anxiety while restoring optimal function of the diaphragm:

Scalloped Tongue Cause #6: Thyroid Issues

One of the first symptoms of hypothyroidism is a swollen tongue, which can push the tongue under the teeth while chewing or sleeping. If you are experiencing fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, puffiness, hair loss, feeling cold, and/or a swollen or scalloped tongue, it’s a good idea to get your thyroid checked too.

If you have a tongue with scalloped or wavy edges, try ruling out each of these potential nutritional, lifestyle, and stress causes. See your primary care provider for information on the more serious conditions that can cause a scalloped tongue.

Ayurvedic Oral Health

I have a comprehensive Ayurvedic oral health morning routine here. Oil pulling with a high-quality oil such as our Swish Oil is a great way to get a head start on your oral health at any stage of life.

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Dr. John

2 thoughts on “Causes of a Scalloped Tongue”

  1. I want to thank you, Dr. Doulliard for all of your wonderful information for Health based in ayurveda, the science of life—

    I have hemochromatosis which I inherited from both my parents-
    I have regular blood draws, And take tikka Greta in the mornings – do you have any other suggestions to control this. I also had Covid, And herpes zoster which thickens the blood as well.

    Thank you


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