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Geographic Tongue

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What do I need to know about geographic tongue (GT)?

GT is a condition that causes lesions to form on your tongue. This makes your tongue look like a map. The lesions stay on your tongue from several days to weeks. The lesions come and go in different areas of the tongue. GT goes away by itself. GT may cause, or happen along with, fissured tongue. Your healthcare provider can give you information about fissured tongue.

What causes GT?

The cause of GT is not known. It may be related to any of the following:

  • Hormones increasing and decreasing (fluctuation)
  • Medicines, such as birth control pills
  • Genetics, or vitamin deficiency
  • Stress, or smoke from tobacco products

What are the signs and symptoms of GT?

You may not have any other symptoms than the lesions on your tongue. Lesions are smooth areas with white, raised borders. The lesions are different shapes and sizes. You may have discomfort when you eat or drink spicy, salty, or acidic foods or drinks.

How is GT diagnosed and treated?

Your healthcare or dental provider will be able to diagnose GT by looking at your tongue. Tell him or her about your symptoms. You may not need any treatment. If your symptoms are painful, you may need any of the following:

  • Anesthetic mouth rinses
  • Steroids that are applied directly on your tongue
  • Zinc supplements
  • Acetaminophen or NSAIDs to reduce pain

What can I do to care for myself?

  • Do not eat hot, spicy, or salty foods.
  • Do not have acidic drinks, such as orange juice.
  • Do not use toothpastes with additives or whitening agents.
  • Do not smoke. Smoke from cigarettes and cigars can cause increased mouth pain. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit.

When should I contact my healthcare or dental provider?

  • You cannot eat because of your pain.
  • Your pain gets worse.
  • You have lesions that last for more than 10 days.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.