Dental Care

Unraveling the Mystery of Geographic Tongue: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Oral pathology is a specialty of dentistry and discipline of pathology that deals with the nature, identification,  and management of diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions. Several oral pathologies and diseases affect the oral cavity, negatively impacting your quality of life. 

The dentist in Jackson Heights, New York, will explore one such oral pathology named “Geographic Tongue” in this informative blog. So read on!

What is geographic tongue?

Geographic tongue is a non-cancerous condition that creates patches of smooth, reddish skin on your tongue. This benign oral pathology is called so because the patch patterns resemble how land masses and oceans are shown on maps. This condition isn’t painful and it’s not dangerous. However, you must consult your dentist if you notice any patches or other changes on your tongue.

Who gets the geographic tongue?

Anyone can develop a geographic tongue, but it may be more common if you:

  • Have skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis
  • Suffer from airborne allergies
  • Are diabetic
  • Have reactive arthritis
  • Are women using oral contraceptives 
  • Suffer from vitamin deficiencies 
  • Have a condition called a fissured tongue
  • Are dealing with emotional stress

What are the symptoms of a geographic tongue?

You may notice:

  • A pattern of smooth, reddish spots on your tongue with white or grey borders
  • Reduced papillae (tiny, hair-like projections protecting your tongue)
  • Loss of taste 
  • Difficulty eating 
  • Increased sensitivity to hot and spicy foods
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • The pattern may show remission and regression
  • A stinging or burning sensation in your tongue
  • Swollen lymph nodes

How is geographic tongue treated?

Your doctor may recommend the following medications:

  • Mouthwash with an antihistamine (anti-allergic medication)
  • Topical analgesics (pain killers) to apply directly on the tongue
  • NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • Corticosteroids ointments and gels to treat swelling and inflammation
  • Vitamin supplements to manage deficiency 

Lifestyle modifications: 

  • Remember to avoid extremely hot and spicy foods 
  • Avoid smoking and other tobacco use
  • Limit the consumption of alcohol
  • Keep your mouth and tongue clean


Geographic tongue is a noncancerous condition that creates patches of smooth, reddish skin on your tongue. Geographic tongue is benign, meaning it doesn’t spread. Most often you may have geographic tongue without having noticeable symptoms. But if you do, symptoms include patches on your tongue with burning and tingling sensations, especially when you eat spicy or acidic foods. If you spot any changes in your tongue, talk to your dentist so they can determine the cause and offer the best course of action.