Online Dental Education Library

A full range of topics can be explored in the HAVE A QUESTION? COLUMN on the right either by filling in the SEARCH box or clicking on one of the procedures below the SEARCH box.

Our team of dentist and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your teeth and gums. Please use our dental library to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.

Geographic Tongue.Geographic tongue is characterized by harmless lesions, or patches, that can suddenly materialize on the tongue's top surface. The condition gets its name from the physical appearance of the lesions, which resemble smooth, red islands, possibly rimmed with white. Their smoothness comes from the absence of the tiny bumps or “papillae” that normally cover the entire surface of the tongue. These variations in color and texture give the whole tongue a map-like appearance.

The pattern on the tongue can change daily as the lesions appear to move or migrate, healing in one spot only to reappear in another. That's why the medical term for this condition is benign migratory glossitis. It's scary looking, but does not compromise a person's health.

Discomfort from the condition can sometimes be relieved with over-the-counter pain relievers; mouthrinses containing anesthetics, antihistamines, or steroids; and by avoiding certain irritants such as tobacco, alcohol, and foods that are spicy, salty or acidic.

No one knows exactly what causes geographic tongue. Some factors that may play a role include vitamin B deficiency, irritation from alcohol or spicy foods, and genetics.

This condition can be diagnosed simply by examining your tongue; laboratory tests are usually not necessary. Geographic tongue normally resolves on its own, but a dental professional should be consulted if you notice any changes in your tongue's appearance.


Have a question?

Search through our library of dental topics, including articles, fun facts, celebrity interviews and more.

Dr. Karen Cheon graduated in 2014 from Loma Linda University School of Dentistry in southern California, and moved to Ann Arbor with her husband.

Dr. Karen Cheon believes that prevention is the most important aspect of good oral health, and that is her focus with every patient.  When restorative intervention is necessary, however, she strives to do the highest quality work with a focus on prevention and aesthetics. Aesthetics are an important of part of her work given the functional impact it can have on everyday life.  

She has had experience delivering care in developing countries as well as free clinics for communities in the US. She appreciates the privilege of being able to deliver high quality dental care to everyone. She resides in Ann Arbor with her husband and daughter. She enjoys mission trips, swimming, traveling, cooking and spending time with her family and friends.