What is a Geographic Tongue?

Geographic tongue is a benign condition of the tongue that makes your tongue look like it has a map drawn on it like the continents of the globe.  The condition effects about 1 to 3% of the general population and we don’t know why it occurs. Some studies suggest that it has a genetic component because it can be seen in family members.  It is characterized by the denuding of the tongue with the filiform papillae lengthening and shortening over time.  These raised and flat places on the tongue can move over time and sometimes completely disappear.  Another name for geographic tongue is benign migratory glossitis and it is seen more often in middle aged to older adults and more prevalent in women than men.

The map like areas of geographic tongue can be irregular, smooth, with red or white patches. You may not be aware that you have geographic tongue until your dentist diagnoses it during your regular oral exam.

In about 10% of people with geographic tongue they may experience mild discomfort or a burning or painful sensation especially when eating hot, spicy, or acidic foods or from smoking a cigarette.  What can be done to correct geographic tongue?  Not much, except brush your tongue daily.  There is currently is no treatment or a cure for geographic tongue.

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