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Mouth Diseases

Redness and irritation on tongue



Hello, About two a months ago, I would wake up and notice that the sides of my tongue were irritated, red in color, sensitive, and on my tongue you can see an indent of my surrounding teeth on my tongue. Over the course of the next few days I would notice a the feeling as if there was a lump inside of my tongue. The lump seemed to move. I mean one day, if I pressed my upper and lower teeth against it I could feel it and the next day it felt as if it was in a completely different spot. Then in a few days after I would notice a redness, that would appear on the tip of my tongue. At this stage my tongue feels sore. Also, the little white bumps on my tongue (i think they are taste buds) one or two of them are swollen, raised and when my tongue is resting I can feel them rubbing on the inside of my teeth. It is uncomfortable to talk and eat.Usually only one or two fo the taste buds are raised at a time. They don`t seem to have any liquid in the them, they appear irritated. Also, I noticed that the little white bumps (again I think i am referring to my taste bud bumps)around the edge of my tongue, on the right in particular where I had the tooth worked on, seem more defined, painless but accentuated. I have a few theories but being no doctor, I thought I would get an educated opinion. My first theory is, I had a false tooth put in but a root canal needs to be done (dentist`s opinion)because I am getting a small amount of bleeding from the tooth that is above it ( the one that was ground down in order to put the permanent false tooth in). So I was thinking maybe I was having a irritated reaction to the small amount of blood that must be in my mouth over night. My second theory is, I recently started dating a man that smokes heavily and has decaying teeth. I only started to have this problem with my tongue since I have been dating him. He has not been to a dentist in many years. By the way in regards to kissing someone with decaying teeth and deterorating gums, is it possible that I am endangering my healthly mouth and teeth? Okay, sorry back to the tongue issue, is it possible that he has given me some type of virus? The other I told him about my tongue symptoms and he says he gets the sores on his tongue all the time (like what I discribed here). But he has gotten used to them and they come and go often. He smokes heavily and I have never dated someone that has, I wonder if he has some type of cancer of the mouth. My third and final theory, that there is no explanation for them or one that I might need to cry over (as some symptom of an STD -- boo hoo). May you please help me, steer me in the correct direction. Thank you for your time and attention.


The features you describe about your tongue:  areas of redness that appear to move from one spot to another, feel slightly raised and are tender, sounds suspiciously like the condition known as geographic tongue (erythema migrans, benign migratory glossitis).  This a benign but poorly-understood condition that usually affects the upper surface of the tongue in adults patients.  The tongue in many, but not all, patients with geographic tongue often has numerous folds or ridges on the upper surface as well as the migrating red spots.

Although geographic tongue typically runs a waxing and waning course, it rarely has symptoms beyond mild sensitivity.  It does not represent an infection (sexually-transmitted or otherwise) and cannot be passed along to anyone else.  It is also not related to oral cancer. 

Just to be sure, I would recommend a consultation with an oral and maxillofacial pathologist or possibly another dental specialist.  If there is any question about the diagnosis, a biopsy can be performed to rule out even the smallest chance of a specific form of infection or other, more serious form of disease.

Good luck!

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Response by:

John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD
Clinical Professor of Pathology
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University