Author: Author’d like to share something with you today. In ancient times a doctor would use your tongue as a diagnostic tool. The first thing they would do is ask you to stick out your tongue. They believed that the condition of your tongue was the primary indicator of your health. But since the advent of modern diagnostic equipment, doctors have gotten away from this natural indicator and rely more on expensive high-tech tests.

Today only time a doctor asks you to stick out your tongue is to see if you have strep throat. Does that mean that your tongue doesn’t indicate the condition of your system?

No! Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, more doctors are finding that your tongue is actually a more sensitive an accurate indicator that many modern tests.

What A Healthy Tongue Vs. Scalloped Tongue Looks Like

Healthy Tongue


Vs. Scalloped Tongue

What Dr. Oz Says About Tongue Health

Recently, Dr Oz had a show dedicated to tongues. Of course, being the consummate showman he had an audience member put on rubber gloves and pull up tongue out of a jar. He also showed some pictures of some really nasty looking tongues. Audience members made faces and pulled out their languages. However, after all the fluff, he did provide one actual factual tidbit of health information.

He said the tongue is unique to everybody. It is like a fingerprint. It shows us all about the subtleties of our health.

That means that your tongue can be used to spot real health deficiencies such as a white tongue indicating a lack of iron. Even mainstream doctors agree that your tongue can be an indicator of your overall health . Another well-respected Dr doctor, Dr Brownstein has written several books on health in a monthly health newsletter.

Dr Brownstein has written extensively about thyroid issues, finding that most Americans are deficient in key nutrients that promote thyroid health. This may be one reason that Americans have weight issues, since your thyroid helps regulate your metabolism. But even Dr Brownstein points to your tongue as an indicator of your health.

Dr Brownstein talks about “tongue swelling” as well which is really related to:

  1. beefy or enlarged tongue (microglossia)
  2. scalloped tongue
  3. tongue with teeth marks around the edges

All three of these items are really the same condition so let’s listen to what dr. Brownstein has to say about this:

“And what you can see is on outer edges of the tongue there’s little grooves where the tongue is banging into the teeth because it is too big for the mouth. Many times patients will tell me that their tongue feels too big for their mouth, and they are tripping over it as they try to talk. But all of these problems usually go away when patients are treated with thyroid hormones.”

The Tongue, Thyroid, and Iodine Deficiencies

The major deficiency related to thyroid is iodine. So boosting iodine can often help a beefy scalloped tongue. Some people with severe thyroid problems require a synthetic thyroid hormone that can be taken as a small pill. For more information on thyroid problems you may want to check out dr. Brownstein’s books.

The key thing to remember is: your tongue is an indicator of your overall health. Trying to treat it as a separate disease is shortsighted in the long run. For instance if you have a pale tongue due to anemia you would’t think that swishing red dye around in your mouth was going to solve your problem would you?

Yeah your tongue would no longer be pale but you would still be anemic, right? If you have a beefy enlarged tongue You need to address the weak tyroid issue through either iodine supplements or thyroid hormone.

Don’t just treat the symptoms – get to the underlying cause. In the same way if you have geographic tongue, is not a disease it is a symptom just like white scalloped tongue or a pale tongue.

And the amazing thing is when you stop treating symptoms and get to the underlying cause geographic tongue goes away. Of course, just like anemia, the geographic tongue can come back if the underlying condition comes back. That is actually a good thing because it reminds you that you need to take care of yourself and not just let yourself go.

So today we learned 3 things:

  1. Treat your tongue like the “health meter” of your body
  2. Don’t stress about your tongue. Use it to help track down the underlying problem. Once you find it your tongue will take care of itself so fast you’ll be absolutely amazed.
  3. One of the major causes of a pale tongue is anemia. It is a nutritional problem that can often be treated with iron and/or B-12 supplements.
  4. One of the major causes of a beefy scalloped tongue is Thyroid issues. It is often a nutritional problem (that is an iodine deficiency) but in more serious cases it can be a hormonal deficiency because of an underlying problem with the thyroid.

What Your Scalloped Tongue Says About Your Thyroid scalloped indentations are caused by the enlarged tongue pressing against the inside edges of the teeth.

The scalloped tongue is slightly larger than normal and so presses onto the teeth which then causes the tongue to have indentations. Deficiency of the thyroid hormone or under-active thyroid gland is responsible for a scalloped tongue.

There are many factors that can change what a person’s tongue looks like. Nowhere is this need for accurate diagnosis more critical than with hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism and the Tongue

Dr. McKay often observes enlarged tongues with scalloped edges (due to pressing against the teeth) in people with years of low thyroid function. When there is a decrease in the thyroid function, the glands may enlarge, shrink or change shape and therefore they cause the scalloped tongue.

If you are not able to absorb micronutrients from your food and supplements then your thyroid will have a tough time doing its job. Not only is the thyroid directly connected to our digestive system, but a scalloped tongue is often the “canary in the coalmine” signalling that some aspect of your health is amiss.

Hypothyroidism produces so many disturbances within the body that it generally would also surface in the form of TMJ, which also produces a scalloped tongue. As with the scalloped tongue, a sore tip of the tongue is not a separate disorder but a symptom of a condition or a result of an action that hurt it.

What Else Causes Scalloped Tongue?

A scalloped tongue may indicate a low thyroid, hormonal imbalance,  yeast overgrowth, liver disease, or a weak immune system. The tiny bumps on the tongue called papillae” fall off, causing patches, but they’re able to grow back.

Symptoms of Scalloped Tongue

A scalloped tongue is an important symptom that you should talk to your doctor about.

The swelling of the tongue body indicates Phlegm while the partial swelling on the left side often indicates a weakness of the channels on that side.

This scalloped appearance is also the hallmark of the condition known as macroglossia. Scalloped or crenated tongue can result from the deficiency of thyroid hormones. At the same time, a swollen tongue can also be a symptom of hypothyroid, sleep apnea or TMJ.

Additionally, toxins can hamper the thyroid and tongue in a couple of different ways:

1) they can have a blocking effect on the cell receptors so the thyroid hormone has a tough time doing its job inside of the cells

2) there is also some evidence that these toxins can actually damage the thyroid gland.

 When To See a Doctor For Tongue Diagnosis

What is also interesting about tongue diagnosis is that it is a useful way to track your own condition. If your tongue is healthy, then most often your thyroid will also be healthy.

If a person experiences this type of discomfort for a prolonged period of time it is always best to seek medical attention to uncover the underlying condition that resulted in the soreness of the tongue.

The diagnosis was confirmed by the response to the proper therapy. However, in spite of the available blood tests for thyroid/pituitary/liver/adrenal function, the diagnosis is often missed.(1,2) One of the most common mis-conceptions regarding thyroid function is the assumption that and reliance on the requirement that the diagnosis of hypothyroidism depends on an elevated TSH level. With so many different symptoms and so many different organ systems potentially affected by thyroid system dysfunction, one might think that a diagnosis would be easy.

Treatment For Scalloped Tongue

One of the first things my doctor noted on my exam was my scalloped tongue. Further, a malfunctioning thyroid gland is often the cause of a scalloped tongue. Though there are no known cures or treatments for scalloped tongue, this condition is completely harmless.

While sometimes this medicine is effective, there are cases in which you’ll need to take the thyroid  medication for life, because the pituitary glands stop making hormones.

On the left, we see swelling: Thyroid disorders can cause goiter, or swelling of the thyroid gland. The shape and size of the tongue tends to address the status of fluids in the body.

What Your Tongue Says About Your Health

So, you can learn a lot by looking at your tongue. This is an adaptation of one of my most popular blog posts titled Look At Your Tongue! In that article I talked through some of the most important things that you can learn about your health by looking at your tongue. I discovered that my tongue was in fact enlarged.

Hopefully, studying your tongue was enlightening and will help you identify possible underlying issues with your thyroid health. Diagnosis of hypothyroidism is important because much of its symptomology corresponds to conditions associated Deficient Spleen Qi and Yang with Dampness.

Does Anxiety Cause Scalloped Tongue?

Q: Is scalloped tongue caused by anxiety? I’ve been suffering from anxiety for a while and recently found that my tongue had take the shape of the surrounding teeth because this was unusual to me as my tongue has never done this i wonder if it is a byproduct of my anxiety or if i really have something.  I think I’m anxious in general lately which is biasing me towards a panicked reaction, so if I work on my general mood maybe I won’t be so quick to have these psychosomatic issues.

Answer: Individuals who are under a lot of stress or suffer from a form of an anxiety disorder may have the habit of oppressing their teeth and in turn hurting the tongue.

While some medical conditions can cause this — the tongue is nothing more than a muscle. Anxiety often creates extreme muscle tension, over time with constant anxiety we take on habits of constantly contracting our muscles which creates back aches, stiffness in various places, and can even cause your tongue to do what it is doing from jaw tension, to literally stressing/tensing it.

Regardless it is a good ‘clue’ and should be presented to the doctor as a ‘sign’ that is odd to you, see what is mentioned first about it from the doctor which will likely not be much.. then bring up your anxiety and see what you can do to treat it.

Basically, you should get your brain focused on something besides your tongue in order for your tongue goes back to truly being a muscle that is subconscious.

Interestingly, soreness of the tongue also results from an unbalanced diet. Finally, problems with spleen are also known to produce the amplified tongue effect.

What Your Tongue Says About Your Mental Health

When your tongue is on the bigger side and it rests against the tooth surfaces, it reflects both mental and physical unhealthiness.  The best time to observe the tongue is upon waking, but really anytime is fine.

The tongue can be a harbinger of toxins and when there are high levels of toxins in the body the tongue will start to swell and enlarge and will push against the sides of the teeth. Anxious, nervous behavior can cause “scalloped” tongue grooves as well.

Is Scalloped Tongue Caused By TMJ?

The strongest muscle in the body is the tongue, and in the world of dentistry, there is an opinion that tongue influences the position of teeth. Bad setting of teeth is the result of bad positioning of tongue and bad setting of teeth gives rise to many structural and psychological issues.

Restricted airway, lack of nose breathing (upper airway obstruction) contributes to collapsed dentition, and adds to abnormal tongue swallow patterns furthering abnormal teeth eruption development which then leads to abnormal masticatory jaw function and abnormal head posture…leads to abnormal TMJ/condyle positioning and development.

The tongue is a big part of the bite-TMJ picture, a crucial one. It is also connecting the whole digestive tract to the occlusion. Do you also feel a “ball stuck in your throat”, or maybe a “few knives” there?  This could be a symptom of TMJ/scalloped tongue.

Symptoms of Scalloped Tongue/TMJ

Numbing of tongue is common for TMDs and a lot (A LOT) of other serious (life threating) issues; unfortunately, suffering from TMD doesn’t exclude other diseases, expecially with age progression.

They might be TMD issues as they might be signs and symptoms of other health issues. It is a wise behaviour to do medical and dental exams.  

Treatment For Scalloped Tongue Related to TMJ

Try to rest, relax, yes meditate (see my descriptions in earlier posts) and try to align your posture. Especially if you possibly got into a FHP (forward head position). IMO, it’s from the throat muscles which easily contract from any stress. But you have to find your comfortable jaw position as well.

Symptoms come from the neck not being in normal alignment, leg issues come from lower back spine issues but both come from the TMJ’s being out of place — . It’s ALL connected and with the occlusion as well. Basically, the throat issues like the ones you described can start just from contracting the jaws too much (from stress), not necessarily from smth in occlusion. This is why try relaxing it all to its more “normal length” first!

Is a Scalloped Tongue Caused by Bruxism?

Q: So i have a scalloped tongue and i was wondering what i could do to get my tongue healthy looking again. I read somewhere that having a scalloped tongue meant that i wasn’t eating right or getting enough sleep. What causes one to develop a scalloped tongue? Is bruxism a significant factor?

Answer: A scalloped tongue is often a sign that the person might be grinding or clenching their teeth at night. Ask your dentist if other signs of bruxism, like enamel cracking, yellowed teeth, abnormal bone growth, or gum pain are present. 

You can have a mouthguard custom made, that you wear to bed. This helps to protect the wear of your teeth, and helps minimize the effects on the jaw.

What Causes Scalloped Tongue

A scalloped tongue is nothing to be concerned about. However, someone with a large tongue, or habits that cause scalloping should really reconsider oral piercings. Do you push your tongue against your teeth when you swallow? 

Oral jewelry sometimes makes us relearn to swallow, overdevelops/ unevenly changes muscles resulting in changes that, over time, can cause changes to your appearance or require orthodontic work (braces) to repair. the dental community is split over how much damage these piercings can do. 

If your tongue isn’t swollen, then you’re pressing it against your teeth or biting down on the edge of your tongue constantly. 

If you can’t consciously make yourself stop doing that, then talk to a doctor or dentist or someone familiar with things like tooth grinding and other symptoms of stress that might screw up your teeth or tongue. If your tongue is actually swollen, then ask a doc about that instead.