Geographic tongue is a condition that may look a little strange in your bathroom mirror, but this oral anomaly is generally harmless. Also known as benign migratory glossitis (BMG), the condition occurs when the filiform papillae that cover the majority of the tongue wear at different rates. This results in a patchy surface that looks like a map on the tongue, hence the reference to geography in the name.
So, You Have Geographic Tongue? No Need To Worry
Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications
The papillae — the tiny, doorknob-like projections on the surface of the tongue — usually wear at a consistent rate, creating a smooth surface on the top of the tongue that has a uniform pink color. In a perfect world, the cells fall off and repair at a rate that allows for this appearance to remain unchanged over time. When a patient experiences BMG, the papillae have worn at an inconsistent rate, creating patches of "bald" spots that may be surrounded by raised red borders.
Many people with BMG experience no symptoms, and the condition often goes away on its own. The Mayo Clinic notes that there may be a connection between geographic tongue and psoriasis, but further research must be done to fully understand the association.
This condition is common, benign and painless. It can be diagnosed and monitored by your dental professional.
If you have this tongue irregularity, continue cleaning your mouth, teeth and tongue twice daily. Daily oral care with a toothbrush and tongue cleaner also assists in the removal of food particles, germs and bacterial growth on the surface of the tongue that can contribute to bad breath.
If you notice any changes in the consistency and texture of your mouth tissues, or you experience pain or burning of the tongue, you should schedule an appointment with a dental professional. Your dentist can examine your condition and provide guidance on how to maintain optimal oral health.
Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider.