When you stick your tongue out, do you see a dent near the middle?

Perhaps the dent or depression is there only when you stick out your tongue.

Or maybe you can see a hint of it when your tongue is relaxed inside your mouth.

Either way – you’ve come to notice a dip or depression near the center of your tongue.

The Tongue Is a Muscle

There are men and women who, upon discovering what they describe as a “dent in a muscle” (such as in their thigh, calf or arm), start panicking because they think this is an early sign of a motor neuron disease.

The indent or depressed area may not even involve the muscle; it could be in the skin itself.

But the tongue is not covered in skin. The indentation IS part of the tongue itself.

“Lots of people have a dent (or a fissure) in their tongue,” says family medicine practitioner Susan L. Besser, MD, with Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore.

“This is a normal variant of tongue anatomy.”

But the image above doesn’t show that longitudinal fissure that you’ve probably seen a number of times throughout your life in different peoples’ tongues. It clearly shows a depressed area near its middle.

I showed the image to Dr. Besser. Her response: “It does look like an anatomic variation from the way his tongue muscles work. I suspect if he retracts his tongue, the dent won’t show at all.”

If your dent seems to vanish as you pull your tongue back into your mouth, you’ll want to just pass it off as a benign variant in the way the muscle appears when it’s being stuck out.

Remember, holding the tongue out, especially to the extent you do when inspecting it, is an unnatural position for this muscle.

Maintaining a stuck-out position is not what this muscle was designed for – which is why it’s uncomfortable to do so and can be maintained only for a very short amount of time.

Worrying over the area with the dip is akin to stretching your leg in an awkward, non-sustainable position, then noticing a variation in the anatomy that’s not there when the leg is relaxed – and then panicking that it means a neurological disease.

What’s more important is if your tongue can still perform its functions: chewing, helping clear the mouth of food, and speaking without difficulty.

Lump on the Tongue More Worrisome than a Dent

“On the other hand, if you suddenly discover a lump on your tongue that wasn’t there before — get it checked out!” says Dr. Besser.

“It might be swollen taste buds, but it could be a tumor (tongues can have cancer too).”

Dr. Besser provides comprehensive family care, treating common and acute primary conditions like diabetes and hypertension. Her ongoing approach allows her the opportunity to provide accurate and critical diagnoses of more complex conditions and disorders.