The conditions in our mouth often breed a lot of mystery, perhaps none more than a rare condition known as ‘Geographic Tongue’. An otherwise harmless condition named for the ‘geographic’ patterns on one’s tongue surface, this is one skin condition that has entirely more bark than bite.
The average tongue is typically coated with tiny, pinkish-white bumps known as papillae. Papillae are actually short, fine, hair-like projections that aid in the process of digesting our food. When it comes to geographic tongue, patches on the surface of the tongue are missing papillae, often appearing as smooth, red “islands”. It’s not uncommon to see them with slightly raised borders.
The lesions on the geographic tongue give it a map-like appearance, hence the name. These lesions will continually heal in one area and migrate to a new part of the tongue to begin the island process all over again. The condition is also called benign migratory glossitis.
To be certain, geographic tongue is not responsible for creating any associated risks like cancer. The worst the condition can do is create sensitivity to foods, causing the tongue certain discomfort. Some foods are worse than others and can cause areas of the tongue to grow enflamed.
The cause of geographic tongue is relatively uncertain and prevention is currently impossible – you’re either born with it, or not. Some research suggests that there could be a link between geographic tongue and psoriasis but much more work will need to be done in this department to prove anything conclusively.
Unfortunately, geographic tongue has no known treatments but it doesn’t require any medical treatment. Most patients learn to live with their discomfort and can minimize it by avoiding certain foods like garlic in high doses. They can also find relief in OTC pain relievers, anesthetic mouthwash, and other related ointments.
If you’ve noticed patches on your tongue that haven’t healed in ten days, make sure to consult with your dentist.