Unnatural Geographic: 4 Ways to Navigate Your Way Out of Geographic Tongue

Posted on: 21 April 2016

Geographic tongue (otherwise known as benign migratory glossitis) is a harmless yet bizarre oral condition which causes your tongue to resemble a satellite image of Earth. This is due to increased sensitivity and inflammation of the raised bumps on your tongue's surface (the papillae). And when this happens, red and white patches can form on the top and sides of the tongue and shift their position over time - much like continents do.

The root cause of this odd condition is still unknown, but there are several contributing factors that can be avoided by amending your diet and daily habits. Here are 4 ways to help you target and sink geographic tongue.

Set ocean co-ordinates

The unforgiving, dry terrain of a geographic tongue cries out for regular hydration. This means drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day, eating water-based fruits such as cucumber and watermelon and even sucking on ice cubes. A regular fluid intake will keep discomfort at bay and increase saliva production to promote the kind of oral bacteria that doesn't leave your tongue stranded.

Gargle maps

Swishing around warm salt water may work for mild oral discomfort, but geographic tongue is a harsh mistress and will require you to up your gargling game. These strong mouthwash varieties will help tame the sore, burning nasties of geographic tongue:

  • Apple cider vinegar - while the sour acidic taste may cause a burning sensation, ACV works hard to restore your mouth's natural pH balance, so the end results are well worth the brief sting. Mix 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water with 1/4 tsp of baking soda. Use this as a mouthwash 2 to 3 times daily.
  • Aloe vera - aloe vera has natural healing and inflammatory properties, making it a great soother for geographic tongue. It also has the added bonus of killing bad breath. Apply 1 tsp of aloe vera juice to your tongue and wait 10 mins before rinsing your mouth with lukewarm water. Repeat this 2 or 3 times a day.
  • Oil pulling -oil pulling is the ancient practice of removing toxins from the mouth and can help bring down the swelling and redness of your tongue's sore spots. Using 1 tsp of either coconut or sesame oil, swish this around your mouth for 10 minutes, but do not swallow. Do this daily before brushing your teeth.

Improve the climate

Some tongues don't respond well to extreme temperatures and flavours, let alone those with swollen and inflamed tissue. The wrong food choices will not only aggravate your tongue papillae, they can actually delay the healing process. Dietary no-no's for geographic tongue include hot and spicy foods, acidic juices, fruits or vegetables and highly sugary or salty products.

Limit overly strong flavours in your diet and opt for milder versions of your meals and snacks instead. Eating raw spinach as opposed to cooked spinach, for example, or milder forms of cheese are far better options. Strong flavours can enter the grooves and fissures created by geographic tongue and can cause you extra irritation and swelling, so keep things mild and neutral on the food front.

Locate the source

Although the chief cause of geographic tongue remains a mystery, it can't hurt to investigate for yourself. The following health factors can aggravate the sensitive tissues of your tongue, so consider which of these apply to help you clarify the cause:

  • eczema or psoriasis (the pink and red patchy appearance of geographical tongue has been likened to an oral form of psoriasis).
  • diabetes
  • nutritional deficiency
  • hormonal imbalance
  • allergies (dust, pet or pollen)
  • stress and anxiety

If you suffer with even the mildest form of any of the above, don't hesitate to consult your local gp (like those at Travellers Medical Services). There may well be a correlation between your geographic tongue and your psychological or physical health that could provide clues for treatment and prevention.

The condition can persist for months and may even return after treatment, but regular check ups and the above tips should help put your geographic tongue in its place. Over and out, comrade!