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What You Should Know About Geographic Tongue

Young woman with tongue sticking out

Geographic tongue is a tongue condition that can cause the surface of the tongue to look like a map of the continents on a globe; which is where it got its name! It’s a benign condition and doctors and dentists are not sure why it occurs. Some studies have concluded that there’s a genetic component, as geographic tongue can be seen in family members. Only 1-3% of the population will experience geographic tongue.

Geographic Tongue Condition

Your tongue is covered in a layer of small bumps called papillae. In people who suffer from geographic tongue, the papillae shorten and lengthen, which causes bald, red areas on the surface of the tongue, usually surrounded by a white border. These areas can move and shift over time and may sometimes completely disappear for a while. Geographic tongue occurs most often in middle-aged women.

The map-like areas of geographic tongue can often appear smooth and have irregular edges and red or white patches. Fortunately, geographic tongue isn’t linked with any other oral diseases or oral cancer. You may not even be aware that you have the condition until your dentist diagnosis it during a dental exam.

Luckily, most people who have geographic tongue will not experience pain associated with the disease. However, around 10% of people may experience a burning sensation or discomfort when eating spicy or acidic foods. During geographic tongue flare-ups, we suggest eating a mild diet to avoid irritating the tongue further.

There is currently no treatment or cure for geographic tongue, but it’s been shown that brushing your tongue daily can help manage the symptoms.

If you have concerns about your gum health or to make an appointment with Dr. Kate Wilson, please contact Coastal Periodontics at our Portsmouth, NH office today!

Posted on Dec 23, 2019

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