Geographic Tongue: Causes, Symptoms and Home Remedies

Does your tongue look like a map which changes in appearance after every few days or weeks? You may have geographic tongue. Also known as “erythema migrans” and “benign migratory glossitis”, it’s nothing serious — there is no evidence that geographic tongue is linked to bigger oral problems such as cancer.

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Geographic tongue is not that common. According to medical experts, it affects 1 to 3 percent of the population only. They add that it may also affect other areas of the mouth and not just the tongue. You will come across many other important details on geographic tongue by continuing to read.


The entirety of your tongue is covered with papillae, tiny bumps that house the taste buds. Sometimes, some of these papillae go missing, giving rise to geographic tongue.

What could cause those papillae to disappear? Well, no one really knows. However, medical experts say that it can be genetic in nature. In other words, geographic tongue tends to run in families. It’s very much likely for you to one day wake up with this condition if a relative of yours has it.

Stress, diabetes, food allergies, hormonal imbalance, fissured tongue (presence of cracks on the tongue’s top side) — these are also suspected to trigger geographic tongue in some people.

Signs and Symptoms

Geographic tongue got its name from the fact that the tongue tends to sport a map-like appearance. Irregularly-shaped red patches (although they may come in other colors, too) with white borders cover the tongue, plus they tend to move to different areas of the tongue — sometimes in a matter of days, sometimes spanning weeks or months. It’s also possible for those formations to disappear, only to reappear after some time.

Medical experts estimate that about 10 percent of all people with geographic tongue may experience pain or burning sensation. This is especially true when smoking cigarettes, eating foods that are acidic, hot and spicy, and using certain types of toothpaste.

By the way, the signs and symptoms of geographic tongue are not limited to the tongue itself. Sometimes they may also affect other parts of the mouth.


Most of the time, pain or burning sensation associated with geographic tongue improves on its own after a while. A dentist, however, may prescribe painkillers to someone who can no longer stand the uncomfortable feeling that is brought upon by geographic tongue.

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Anti-inflammatory drugs, oral rinses with anesthetic properties, zinc supplements and corticosteroids directly applied on the affected parts of the tongue may also be prescribed by a dentist.


Fortunately, geographic tongue is not linked to oral cancer, which means that it’s not really a serious problem. However, it is possible for someone who is bugged by geographic tongue to end up with bad breath. He or she may also try to dodge certain foods or beverages if the tongue is sensitive to them.

Oral thrush or candidiasis of the mouth may also strike, medical experts say. This is caused by a fungal infection and it can be contagious, so it has to be treated properly with antifungal medications.

Home Remedies

Numerous home remedies for geographic tongue are also around. If you have this tongue problem, you may try some of the following solutions:

-Increase your fluid intake to help keep the mouth clean as well as to reduce the symptoms. 

-Leave aloe vera gel on problem spots for about 10 minutes, and then rinse off with water. This home remedy may be carried out up to 3 times a day. 

-Gargle with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar and a glass of lukewarm water. Perform this 2 or 3 times daily. 

-Drinking mint tea that is chilled in the fridge is also an excellent home remedy for geographic tongue. 

-Have a well-balanced diet. Make sure that your meals contain foods that are rich in B vitamins and zinc, both of which can help in lessening the impact of geographic tongue.

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