Everything You Need to Know About Geographic Tongue

One of the lesser known or discussed conditions is that of geographic tongue. This condition may or may not require treatment depending on the severity and the presentation of symptoms.

What Is Geographic Tongue?

The medical condition of benign migratory glossitis, or geographic tongue, is a harmless condition. As the name suggests, it resembles a map of red patches on the inside of the mouth, most often the tongue. 

Symptoms of Geographic Tongue 

Many cases of geographic tongue do not offer symptoms and are only diagnosed when the mouth is examined by a dentist. A few cases may cause discomfort or pain.

Red Patches on the Tongue

As the major telltale sign of geographic tongue, red spots or patches can appear to develop along the sides, top and even the tip of the tongue. These patches may be outlined by a gray or white border and can often change shape and even location on the tongue.

Absence of Papillae on the Tongue

These red patches may cause the surface of the tongue to be smooth, most notably with absence of the papillae (ie. The little dumps on the surface of your tongue)..

Burning Feeling

A burning or stinging sensation is a common symptom of geographic tongue. This sensation can be mostly seen with tobacco use, eating spicy or acidic foods, and when using toothpaste.

Causes of the Geographic Tongue

It should be noted there is no known cause for this condition. Research into geographic tongue has shown that while it is not contagious, it has been seen in members of the same family, giving it a possible genetic link. Other medical and dental cases associated with geographic tongue include (but are not limited to):

  • Psoriasis
  • Hormonal surges
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Fissured tongue
  • Diabetes
  • Allergies
  • Emotional stress

Is It a Big Concern?

Ask any family dentist and they’ll tell you that geographic tongue offers no long-term complications and is considered a harmless medical issue. That being said, it is important to see a dentist for treatment of any pain or discomfort with a geographic tongue condition. An examination can give you or your family members a proper diagnosis and peace of mind.

Treatment for Geographic Tongue

Geographic tongue treatment varies in accordance with the severity of the condition. Mild discomfort or pain may dissipate on its own while more serious effects can be managed with use of over-the-counter pain medications. It is recommended to use an anesthetic mouth rinse, zinc supplements or dissolvable corticosteroids typically prescribed by a doctor or dentist. Avoid use of tobacco, toothpaste with additives and consumption of spicy and acidic foods.

Side Effects of Treatment

Since geographic tongue is typically treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), the side effects are rare. Long-term use of said medication can cause stomach pain heartburn, headaches, light headedness, high blood pressure, and stomach ulcers. Patients under dental care treatment should notify their dentist of any of these symptoms.

Visit Princeview Dental for Dental Care Treatments in Etobicoke

If you are concerned about or affected by geographic tongue, contact our team in Etobicoke at Princeview Dental Group. As a dentist in Etobicoke, Dr. Mummery has been helping men, women and children with personalized dental plans for more than 35 years. Our team of compassionate professionals welcome you to a judgment-free environment. Contact us today to book a routine checkup, cleaning or consultation.

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