July 10, 2013

What is Geographic Tongue?

Geographic tongue 

Geographic tongue is a harmless, benign condition affecting the surface of your tongue.  While your tongue is normally covered with tiny, pinkish-white bumps (papillae), with this condition, patches on the surface of the tongue are missing papillae and appear as smooth, red islands, often with slightly raised borders.  These patches give the tongue a map-like, or geographic, appearance.  

They can heal in one area and change location, size and shape, as often as hourly or daily.  The patches may be uncomfortable or have a burning sensation, especially when eating hot, spicy, salty or acidic foods.


Although geographic tongue (also known as migratory glossitis) may look alarming, it doesn't cause health problems and isn't associated with infection or cancer.  Anxiety about the condition is common because the appearance may be embarrassing and it may be difficult to be reassured that there is, in fact, nothing seriously wrong.  It is not contagious.  The patches typically do not require any treatment, as they go away by themselves.  Mouth rinses with an anesthetic may be helpful in cases of extreme sensitivity.  Avoiding irritating foods, alcohol, tobacco products and toothpastes with additives is recommended.

Robert G. Tupac, DDS, FACP, Inc., Diplomate, American Board of Prosthodontics (661) 325-1275 | www.drtupac.com 5060 California Ave., #170, Bakersfield, CA 93309

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