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What is a geographic tongue?

Geographic tongue is a common condition in which the tongue develops irregular smooth red patches with white lines, giving it an appearance similar to the outline of a map. It may also occur around other areas of the mouth.

This condition is a harmless benign condition. While the exact cause remains unknown, medical professionals propose that the condition is a result of inflammation. The structure of the tongue is typically covered with a layer of tiny bumps called papillae. Geographic tongue occurs when parts of these tiny bumps are missing, causing those areas of the tongue to be smooth and red with slightly raised borders. This condition is often genetically linked and therefore tends to run in families.

While research has shown that only about 5% of people with geographic tongue experience pain or sensitivity, it is still recommended to see the dentist to determine if it is a serious problem or not. During the appointment, your dentist will examine your mouth and tongue, in order to reach a differential diagnosis. In most cases, the condition will repair itself within 10 days. However in more serious cases, ongoing medication can be prescribed to reduce any pain or sensitivity.

Treatments may include:

  • Over the counter pain relievers

  • Anti-inflammatory medications

  • Mouth rinses with anaesthetic

  • Zinc Supplements

It is also recommended to limit the following substances to hasten the relief of symptoms:

  • Tobacco

  • Hot, spicy or acidic foods

  • Toothpastes with additives such as whitening agents or heavy flavouring

For further information, book in to see one of our dentists today. It is always helpful to understand your condition and what you can do to treat it!

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