Pardon My Geographic Tongue

Are you among the 2 percent?

By Kevin RR Williams

HEALTH Being among an elite class can engender a sense of pride. Only 4 percent of the population are over 6' 2" or taller; just 3 percent of the population have an IQ over 126; 2 percent of people have geographic tongue. Congratulations if you are a member of either category.

According to WebMD, “Geographic tongue is… a condition that gets its name from its map-like appearance on the upper surface and sides of the tongue. It may occur in other areas of your mouth, as well.” It happens when there's a loss of tongue papillae, the tiny hair like projections on the surface of the tongue. There is actually a long list of medical-sounding names doctors may use:

  • benign migratory glossitis
  • erythema migrans
  • erythema migrans lingualis
  • glossitis areata exfoliativa
  • glossitis areata migrans
  • lingua geographica
  • psoriasiform mucositis
  • stomatitis areata migrans
  • wandering rash of the tongue
  • and transitory benign plaques of the tongue

How Do I Get This Out of My Mouth?

People with long tongues can’t seem to keep them in their mouths, exposing their oddity and often a lack of hygiene. On the other hand, those with geographic tongue want to get the discoloration, not their tongues out of their mouths. Indeed, it has the appearance of a contagious disease.

The odd thing about geographic tongue (other than its appearance) is that it often comes and goes within months, weeks or even hours. The disagreements among experts over a cause place psoriasiform mucositis in the category of a rare but benign disease. In even rarer cases, it can be painful. For severe, ongoing pain, medication may help. These are examples of what your doctor or dentist may prescribe:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Mouth rinses with anesthetic
  • Corticosteroids applied directly on the tongue
  • Zinc supplements

Some have put forth the notion that nutritional imbalance may trigger the condition in those with a predisposition. It is suggested that sufficient vitamin B, in particular, may be lacking from the patient’s diet. Dehydration may also be a factor. Caffeinated beverages are diuretics. Wouldn’t it be nice if the cure was simply to eliminate colas and coffee while drinking more water? It may help. Cosmetic remedies include brushing teeth and more frequently, using a blunt tongue scraper and rinsing with mouthwash.

There are other causes for irregular tongue patterns that should be evaluated by a medical doctor. Take comfort in the fact that geographic tongue lesions are not cancerous. With good hygiene and nutrition you can be A Bit More Healthy. Just try not to go all Miley Cyrus at people when gloating.

Tags: dentist, dermatology, oral thrush, paisley pattern

References
  1. Geographic Tongue. webmd.com
  2. Geographic tongue. wikipedia.org
  3. Geographic tongue. netdoctor.co.uk
  4. Why Do We Love Tall Men? netdoctor.co.uk