What is geographic tongue? Is it painful? What are its causes? Here are some frequently asked questions about the condition called geographic tongue.

What is geographic tongue?

This condition causes smooth, red patches to develop on the tongue which are missing papillae (the tiny bumps you see on your tongue). These patches often change shape or size over time.

Can geographic tongue be harmful?

Geographic tongue won’t cause infection or cancer because it is a harmless condition. In fact, one of its names is benign migratory glossitis. The most you will experience is mild discomfort or increased sensitivity when you eat foods that are spicy, hot, acidic, or salty.

What causes geographic tongue?

No one knows the cause of this condition. However, it has been found that those with fissured tongue or a family history of geographic tongue are more likely to develop it.

How long does geographic tongue last?

Geographic tongue can last for months or years. It may go away on its own, though it can return at a later time.

Should I see a dentist/doctor about geographic tongue?

Even though this condition is harmless, you should still see a dentist or doctor if you develop patches on your tongue that do not go away after a couple of weeks. These patches can indicate geographic tongue, but they could also be a symptom of a more serious condition.

Can geographic tongue be treated?

Since this condition is harmless and its cause is unknown, geographic tongue often doesn’t require treatment or have one. If you experience mild discomfort from geographic tongue, your dentist may recommend using an antihistamine/anesthetic mouth rinse, corticosteroid ointment, or avoiding foods which are spicy, hot, acidic, or salty.

Why is it called geographic tongue?

This condition has its name because the patches often look like islands on a map.

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