Discoloration of Tongue

Mouth | Odontologie | Discoloration of Tongue (Symptom)


Also known as geographic tongue, discoloration of tongue is an inflammatory condition of the tongue affecting approximately 2% of the population. It is characterized by discoloured regions of taste buds or sometimes even cracks in the surface of the tongue.


The condition is usually chronic, and frequently manifests after eating any of a range of exacerbating foods, or during times of stress, illness, or hormonal surges (particularly in women just before menstruating). It is also known as benign migratory glossitis, oral erythema migrans, glossitis areata exfoliativa, glossitis areata migrans, lingua geographica, stomatitis areata migrans, and transitory benign plaques of the tongue.

The top side of the tongue is covered in small protrusions called papillae. In a tongue affected by geographic tongue, red patches on the surface of the tongue are bordered by greyish white. The papillae are missing from the reddish areas and overcrowded in the greyish white borders. Whitish/yellow discoloration of the tongue is frequently due to a yeast infection. The small patches may disappear and reappear in a short period of time (hours or days), and change in shape or size. While it is not common for the condition to cause pain, it may cause a burning or stinging sensation, especially after contact with certain foods.

Foods that sometimes cause irritation, burning or slight swelling of the tongue include tomato, eggplant, walnuts, sharp cheeses, spicy foods, sour foods, mint, candy and citrus. Geographic tongue may also cause numbness. Coexistence of fissures of the tongue is often noticed. Chemicals, such as mouth washes and teeth whiteners, can also aggravate the condition.