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Dental and Oral Health (Children)

Spots on my son`s tongue

07/17/2007

Question:

My son has spots on his tongue that re-appear occasionally. They are on the sides and top of his tongue and are of irregular shape and take up a large part of his tongue. They are white on the outside, while the rest of his tongue is normal color and fine. He doesn`t even seem to notice the spots, but I would like to know what they are.

Answer:

The tongue is normally covered by several different types of papillae or "bumps". In "geographic tongue" one type of these bumps is missing, making that area of the tongue look smooth and red with a white border. The cause of geographic tongue has not been determined, and it is known to disappear spontaneously and occasionally reappear. It can sometimes cause discomfort when eating spicy foods, but usually patients don't experience any pain. The spots can change from day to day, but this condition is harmless and no treatment is necessary.

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Response by:

Dennis J McTigue, DDS Dennis J McTigue, DDS
Professor of Pediatric Dentistry
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University