What is Geographic Tongue?

July 22, 2019

Geographic tongue is a condition of the tongue that can cause the tongue to look like a map of the continents on a globe. It is a benign condition and doctors aren’t sure why it occurs. Some studies have suggested that it may have a genetic component as it can be seen in family members. Geographic tongue effects between 1-3% of the population.

Geographic Tongue

The tongue is covered in a layer of small bumps known as papillae. In people with geographic tongue, the papillae lengthen and shorten, causing bald, red areas typically surrounded by a white border on the tongue. These areas can move over time and will sometimes completely disappear. Geographic tongue occurs more often in middle-age and is more prevalent in women than men. The map-like areas of the tongue can appear smooth with irregular edges and white or red patches. Luckily geographic tongue is not linked with any other oral disease or cancer. You may not even be aware that you have it until your dentist diagnoses it during a regular dental exam. Lastly, most people do not have any pain associated with geographic tongue. However, around 10% of sufferers will experience discomfort or a burning sensation when eating acidic or spicy foods or smoking cigarettes. During flare-ups, we suggest eating a mild diet so as not to irritate the tongue further. There is currently no treatment or cure for geographic tongue but brushing your tongue daily can help to manage the symptoms. Orthodontic treatment may also irritate the tongue, so please let us know if you’re feeling any discomfort or pain on your tongue from your braces. To make an appointment, please contact Kuhni Orthodontic Studio in Spanish Fork, Utah serving surrounding areas including Springville & Lake Shore.