Everything You Need To Know About Geographic Tongue

Everything You Need To Know About Geographic Tongue

What is this common oral condition?

Our Egham dental practice is well known for offering modern, professional and friendly dentistry to patients living in the TW20 area. We offer lots of fantastic cosmetic dentistry treatments, but general dentistry is at our heart and we make every effort to ensure we offer unbeatable, high quality services which keep patients happy, placing their continued trust in us to care for their oral health.

We get plenty of questions about different conditions, treatments and issues at the surgery, and one is in relation to geographic tongue, a more common oral condition than many realise.

The condition is called geographic tongue because of the shapes it leaves on the surface of the tongue, where the skin looks like a map. A person with the condition would have irregular patches on the top and sides and sometimes on the bottom. The patches might be white, or red, some might appear more or less raised than other areas. Area might also have wavy white lines near them. The shape and position of the areas might change over time.

The condition is caused by an irregularity in a normal process where the skin on the tongue is shed in different patches, some not quick enough (white patches) and some too quick (thin red sore patches). Usually we shed the skin on our tongue continuously as it replaces itself, so don’t notice it at all. However, when this process is irregular, the very thin red patches can be very sore. Sometimes these red patches can become infected with thrush which makes the condition more painful than usual.

Sadly, there is nothing in particular that would make you more likely to get geographic tongue. Usually, adults who suffer from it will also have suffered from it as children and it may have run in their family but luckily it isn’t contagious at all and is not an infection in any way, so you won’t pass it on to anyone else.

You can however, make it worse for yourself if you don’t get a good idea of which foods make it more sore. Generally fruit, or anything really acidic, or particularly hot and spicy foods will make it more painful, although they don’t actually make the condition itself any worse.

If you think you have geographic tongue, ask next time you visit us at your local Egham dentist, and we will be happy to confirm it – we don’t have to do any special tests, we can tell with a visual examination. Your doctor is also able to visually confirm the condition. Sadly we cannot offer any treatments for it because there aren’t any, but we can recommend you get an idea of the foods that make it worse (spicy, acidic etc as above) to manage your own comfort levels. You might also want to ask the pharmacist about oral thrush treatments which could ease the discomfort a little in some circumstances.

If the symptoms do get worse considerably i.e. you are struggling to breath, the tongue is swollen etc – please ring an ambulance as this is an emergency. If the symptoms are getting worse but are manageable, speak to your doctor or dentist about referring you to hospital.

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