Dr. Tanya Orr, DDS
6880 W County Hwy 30A
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

Geographic Tongue

Geographic tongue is an oral condition where the tongue takes on a map-like appearance with smooth, red patches that differ in shape and size. These patches might also have white borders, and they can change and move over time. The tongue is normally covered by small bumps called papillae, and the smooth areas are missing these bumps.

Geographic tongue is also formally referred to as benign migratory glossitis and erythema migrans. According to the American Academy of Oral Medicine, it affects an estimated 1 to 2.5% of the population. While a geographic tongue may look unusual, it’s actually a harmless condition. Some people may experience mild discomfort, but there is no threat to your health or increased risk for other problems.

Causes of Geographic Tongue

There is some uncertainty as to what actually causes geographic tongue. Some have speculated that genetics, psoriasis, and stress are possible causes. Overall, more research needs to be done to determine why the condition develops. What we do know is that it’s not caused by any specific disease or infection, and there is no risk of it turning into cancer. It is also not contagious.

Treatment for Geographic Tongue

While there is no cure for geographic tongue, the condition normally resolves itself on its own — and many people with geographic tongue do not experience any symptoms.

There are treatment options available to manage any pain you might feel, including over-the-counter pain relievers, mouth rinses with anesthetics, and steroids. If you have geographic tongue, we might also recommend that you avoid spicy/acidic foods as well as tobacco, which can both cause a burning sensation on the sensitive areas of your tongue.

If you have this condition or need a diagnosis, Dr. Orr can perform an examination to determine the best ways to relieve any discomfort you have.

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