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Scalloped tongue: What you need to know

People with scalloped tongue have tongues with indented, rippled, or scalloped edges. Scalloping is the most noticeable on the outermost sides of the tongue.

Scalloped tongue is sometimes called rippled tongue, crenated tongue, piecrust tongue, or lingua indenta.

The condition is rarely painful or a sign of more serious complications, but knowing the cause of scalloped tongue can help prevent or treat any underlying conditions.


A scalloped tongue can be the result of macroglossia, which is an inflammation or abnormal enlargement of the tongue. It can be a symptom of other conditions that do not enlarge the tongue.

If these conditions lead to compression of the tongue against the teeth, tongue scalloping will result. Scalloping can be caused by a variety of things, including:

Parafunctional activities

Better known as bad habits, parafunctional activities are considered the leading cause of scalloped tongue. Bad habits include teeth grinding, cheek sucking, and picking at the teeth.

Many things can lead to a person performing parafunctional activities, such as stress, sleep disorders, systemic disease, poor tooth alignment or tooth loss, and trauma.

Infection, injury, or allergic reaction

The immune system causes inflammation in response to infection, injury, and allergens. Certain reactions will lead to swelling of the tongue.

As the tongue swells and enlarges, it presses up against the teeth, often causing indentation or pitting.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

Scalloped tongue can occur when the body does not get enough of certain vitamins and minerals, especially B vitamins, which can lead to tongue enlargement.

Common nutritional deficiencies that cause scalloped tongue include:

  • vitamin B-12
  • riboflavin
  • niacin
  • iron