Speaking of Tongues: Lingua geographica, or Geographic Tongue

Benign migratory glossitis, oral erythema migrans, glossitis areata exfoliativa, glossitis areata migrans, lingua geographica, stomatitis areata migrans, and transitory benign plaques of the tongue. These are some of the names for a condition more often known as “geographic tongue.”

It’s not very common; only about 2 percent of the population have it. Unfortunately, it’s a chronic disease, so those who get geographic tongue probably get it pretty often. And it’s not that worrisome. Geographic tongue doesn’t spread to other parts of the body; it doesn’t transform to cancer; it’s not contagious; and most likely, no one ever died from it.

The cause of geographic tongue is not known for sure. It seems to be more common with people who have environmental sensitivities such as allergies, eczema or asthma. Nutrition might play a part, such as zinc or vitamin B deficiencies. Spicy foods, alcohol or burning your tongue on hot foods may bring on geographic tongue. Surprisingly, according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, geographic tongue is less common among people who smoke.

What it’s like

They call it geographic tongue because there are flat, oddly-colored patches that almost look like a map. The flat patches, which can change from day to day, are the result of a loss of the tiny papillae, finger-like projections, on the surface of the tongue. Sometimes the patches are pale, but they can also be smooth and red. Tenderness is not uncommon. While geographic tongue is harmless (although annoying), it is not generally serious. Symptoms that do warrant seeking medical help are severe swelling or trouble breathing, speaking, chewing or swallowing.

What to do about it

There are not any common treatments for geographic tongue. People are advised to avoid foods that trigger it, and some people find relief from mint leaves, candy or gum. Some dentists might prescribe topical steroid ointments, antihistamines or zinc lozenges.

Or, they might try something completely different. Dr. Edward P. Allen, a nationally known periodontist, provided a case study of a 35-year-old male with chronic, recurring geographic tongue. Dr. Allen has had excellent results recommending AO ProVantage dental gel for patients with inflammation of the gums or who have had dental procedures. He recommended AO ProVantage dental gel for the patients two times daily. He also took photographs of the patient’s tongue at the beginning of treatment, and again after two weeks, six weeks, and six months. The patient experienced fewer episodes of geographic tongue, and when it flared up, it occurred in a reduced area of the tongue and resolved more rapidly.

AO ProVantage from PerioSciences is a cooling, minty dental gel that soothes oral tissues and freshens breath. It adds to the appearance of healthy-looking gums – and tongues.

PerioSciences is dedicated to innovating antioxidant use and providing the best oral care products. If you would like to learn more about antioxidants in oral care and our products, join us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn!

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