Geographic Tongue

Geographic tongue, also known as Erythema Migrans or benign migratory glossitis, is of uncertain etiology. Areas of erythema with discrete white borders appear due to atrophy of the filiform papillae. Usually seen on the dorsal surface of the tongue, but other oral sites such as the buccal mucosa may be involved. Geographic tongue is associated with fissured tongue.


  • May produce pain or burning, especially with spicy foods
  • Most often asymptomatic
  • Waxes, wanes, and migrates


  • Normal variant, reassurance only
  • Typically no treatment is required.
  • Topical steroid gels and antihistamine mouth rinses (e.g., diphenhydramine elixir) can reduce tongue sensitivity.

Geographic Tongue

Brad Neville, DDS
Brad Neville, DDS
Brad Neville, DDS


Assimakopoulos D, Patrikakos G, Fotika C, Elisaf M. Benign migratory glossitis or geographic tongue: an enigmatic oral lesion. Am J Med 2002;113(9):751-5.

Reamy BV, Derby R, Bunt CW. Common tongue conditions in primary care. American Family Physician. 2010;81(5):627-634.