Geographic tongue

Geographic tongue

This “geographic tongue” post was written by Dr. Gal Avishai, an oral surgery specialist in children and adults.

What is geographic tongue?

It is a typical change in the appearance of the tongue, often revealed by the patients itself or during a routine checkup by the dentist or the dental hygienist.
Some people notice this phenomenon because of the strange look of the tongue, and some notice it following a burning sensation while eating acidic, spicy or bubbly food or drinks.
It is a common and benign condition, prevalent in about 3% of people, in a wide range of ages. Occasionally this condition is observed in children.

What is the reason for having geographic tongue?

The reason is unknown. There are those who relate it to allergies or psoriasis, but it does not explain the case in most people.

Geographic tongue 2

How can you diagnose geographic tongue?

Usually, the typical changes are noticed in the anterior two thirds of the tongue, especially on the sides. There are several reddish lesions, sometimes with elevated curly margins in a white to yellowish color. The lesions tend to change their size and shape often, disappear in a matter of days-weeks and then return and reappear in a different part of the tongue. The overall look can sometimes remind a world map, hence the name of the phenomena. Some of the people who have geographic tongue, also have a fissured tongue.
Occasionally similar lesions will appear in different areas of the mouth – in the inside of the cheeks and lips, gums, the floor of the mouth and more.
The red lesions on the tongue are caused from a temporary loss of the white “hair-like” projections that are meant to protect the tongue from exposer to hard, hot, sour or spicy foods. This is why some people experience a burning sensation or discomfort when they eat or drink, when the phenomenon is at its peak.
In most cases geographic tongue can be diagnosed easily just by its appearance. No treatment is needed. In those who have a burning sensation, it’s important to check if it is indeed geographic tongue, or perhaps another condition that may have a similar appearance, such as atrophic candidiasis (read more here), or a possible manifestation of anemia or nutritional deficiency. When there is a burning sensation in geographic tongue, relief can be achieved by using topical steroidal preparations, or by dietary adjustment.

Does geographic tongue passes?

Not necessarily.
In Some people it is a permanent condition, in others it begins and lasts for a while with no apparent trigger, and then goes away on its own. Some suffer from the condition intermittently.
Either way – it is a benign condition in children and adults.

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