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Also known as erythema migrans or benign migratory glossitis, geographic tongue is a condition where patches develop on the tongue. Learn more about the appearance, causes, treatments, and other facts about geographic tongue below.


Geography tongue is called by this name because it has a map-like appearance when the tongue develops smooth, red, irregularly shaped patches. These patches can actually change in shape and size over time.


There is no known cause for geographic tongue, though it has been found to develop in those with fissured tongue or those who have a family history of geographic tongue.

Health Problems

Geographic tongue is not an infection and does not cause cancer; it is generally considered a benign condition. The only harm that some may experience with geographic tongue is discomfort or a burning sensation when they eat salty, spicy, or acidic foods.

Time Length

Geographic tongue often goes away on its own. However, this process can take months or years, and it may return after some time has passed.


It is always best to see your dentist or doctor about geographic tongue so they can diagnose it. Other conditions may have a similar appearance, but are malignant in nature. Geographic tongue usually does not require treatment, but if you experience discomfort from this condition then your dentist may prescribe a mouthwash or ointment.