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Geographic tongue is a chronic, inflammatory condition of the tongue (can also affect other areas of the mouth) affecting approximately 3% of the population. It is characterized by discolored regions of taste buds or sometimes even cracks in the surface of the tongue. Geographic tongue will frequently show up after eating any of a range of exacerbating foods, or during times of stress, illness, or hormonal surges (particularly in women just before menstruating). The name “geographic” comes from the map like shape of the lesion. Fortunately, geographic tongue is a harmless benign condition that will not lead to oral cancer or infection.

Geographic Tongue Symptoms

The hallmark signs of geographic tongue include irregular, smooth, red patches on parts of the tongue (can be on top or the sides). These patches have the following characteristics:

-A white or light-colored outlining border.

-Varying  size, shape, and color patches across the tongue.

-They move from one place to another. May start in one area and then appear in another.

-Come and go or change very quickly  in days, weeks, or months

-Long lasting. Geographic tongue can last up to a year at a time.

-About 10% of all geographic tongue patients may experience mild discomfort or a burning/painful sensation. This sensation is often triggered by sensitivity to cigarette smoke, toothpaste, coffee,or hot, spicy foods.

What Causes Geographic Tongue?

Geographic tongue occurs when parts of the tongue are missing layers of small bumps called papillae. They normally cover the entire upper layer of your tongue. It is unknown why some people lose this papillae. Geographic tongue does tend to run in families so a genetic link is suspected.

Geographic tongue has also been seen more frequently in people with psoriasis and in those with fissured tongue. In fissured tongue, cracks and grooves appear on the tops and sides of the tongue.

Geographic Tongue Treatment

As with any lesion in the mouth, you should see your dentist to ensure the proper diagnosis. In some cases tests may need to be run to rule out something more serious. But usually your symptoms coupled with a visual examination is enough to diagnose geographic tongue.

In most cases, any pain or discomfort will get better without treatment. But for some there are medications that can help relieve the symptoms. These include zinc supplements, mouthrinses with anesthetic, topical corticosteroids (applied directly to the tongue), and over the counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS).

At home self care should include limiting use of tobacco products, choosing toothpaste without extra additives (toothpaste for sensitive teeth works best), avoiding hot, spicy foods, keeping the tongue clean by scraping or brushing daily.

Conclusion

For most people with geographic tongue, it is symptomless. Some people experience anxiety about the appearance of their tongue. Understanding that it is a variation of normal, and nothing serious, may alleviate some of the anxiety. Some habits can help decrease the cosmetic appearance, and some increase it’s intensity and duration. Rest assured that, while different looking, geographic tongue is not contagious, nor is it indicitive of poor health. Geographic tongue need only be understood so that symptoms can be managed to the best of your ability.

 

For many adults, braces or orthodontics have just not been an option. They do not want to invest the time and effort to make their teeth straight. For those that do want to correct their occlusion,  it is a worthwhile investment. Orthodontics is a great way to fix bite issues as well as some cosmetic issues. However, if you do not have any bite issues and are looking for a fresh start with a new smile, instant orthodontics may be the answer for you.

How Does Instant Orthodontics Work?

Instant orthodontics is achieved using multiple cosmetic dentistry procedures in a fairly short time to give you the white, bright, straight smile you desire. Depending upon how extreme your smile issues are to begin with, instant orthodontics can range from 2-3 visits to 2-3x times that number. Let’s take a look at some of the cosmetic dentistry procedures involved in instant orthodontics:

-Porcelain Veneers. This is a hallmark procedure in cosmetic dentistry for an instant orthodontics case. Porcelain veneers are a custom made thin shell of porcelain that is bonded to the existing teeth (after a small amount of preparation to the teeth). Once in place you have a long lasting durable dental restoration that can change color, shape, and size of your teeth. These are generally used on the top front teeth and  sometimes, bottom front teeth. Porcelain veneers work best in cases where minor changes need to be made in alignment, shape and color of teeth. Preliminary models of the teeth should be made to assess whether veneers can correct issues properly. If after diagnostic workup, it is found that the issues are too severe, a different method of correction will be necessary. So, porcelain veneers are ideal in cases where there is a limited amount of misalignment of teeth and/or the patient’s desire is to not only bring them back in line but also to change the color and shape of their teeth.

-Porcelain and Zirconia Crowns. These types of crowns are the most cosmetic offered in dentistry today. They are made from modern dental porcelains that range in strength and esthetics. If done properly, no one should ever be able to tell a porcelain crown from natural tooth. Modern porcelains possesses strength, color properties, and light reflection properties that very closely mimic our natural teeth. Porcelain crowns can be used to change bite alignment issues as well as change alignment of front teeth which are more extreme such as those issues that porcelain veneers alone cannot fix. More natural tooth structure needs to be removed in preparing a porcelain crown vs a porcelain veneer.

-Dental Bonding. This cosmetic dentistry procedure can be useful when closing a gap between teeth, changing a surface imperfection, or altering tooth shape. Dental bonding is much less expensive in the short term, but can change color,(stain), and chip requiring frequent replacement. Porcelain crowns or porcelain veneers do not change color and are more resistant to fracture. That said, dental bonding does a great job in closing gaps on teeth as well as changing the size, shape and color of one or more teeth much in the same circumstances diagnostically as veneers.

Why Choose Instant Orthodontics Over Traditional Orthodontics?

While traditional orthodontics has a necessary and important place in dentistry. Traditional orthodontic movement of teeth into correct anatomical position is the generally the more conservative approach due to the fact that the teeth do not require alteration to their anatomy. Many adult patients choose instant orthodontics over traditional orthodontics for the following reasons:

-Time. Traditional orthodontics can take a year or longer to achieve the results you are looking for. Orthodontics will not whiten teeth or change color or tooth shape.

-Periodontal disease. This needs to be under control prior to any type of dental work of this magnitude. Traditional orthodontics can make a situation where there is bone loss present even worse as the teeth move. Teeth moving into place may cause increased bone loss, tooth looseness, root resorption, and gum tissue recession.

-Tooth Decay/Old restorations present. When there is tooth decay present or an older dental restoration (such as a crown or previous dental bonding) that needs replacing, it may actually be easier and more cost efficient for the patient to get new dental restorations and re align the teeth in that manner.

-Bite Reclamation. Over time, our teeth wear (this is especially true for those who grind their teeth). This wear can cause a loss in what is called vertical dimension, collapsing our bites. A good cosmetic dentist can not only make your new restorations look perfect but they can also add the extra function of restoring that lost vertical height. This will give the effect of smoothing out the skin and wrinkles around the mouth thus giving you a more youthful appearance. Instant orthodontics can not fix loss of tooth structure.

Instant Orthodontics Conclusion

Instant orthodontics is not for everyone. For those who are unhappy with their smile and looking for more than just teeth whitening it could be just the answer for their needs. If traditional orthodontics is not feasible for you, instant orthodontics may be a great option. You can expect your smile to look great in just a few weeks,  but be aware, over time some of those restorations may need to be redone if they break or tooth decay becomes an issue. Remember, dental hygiene is the foundation of any cosmetic dentistry work. If you wish any restoration to last, you must brush, floss, rinse, and see your dentist regularly for examinations and professional cleanings.