Q I’ve noticed red and white patches on my tongue that are quite painful. What could it be?

A When the tongue starts to develop smooth, red patches with white lines next to them, this is called ‘geographic tongue’ because it resembles a map. This is quite a common mouth condition that is not infectious and can never become cancerous.

It can affect any age group and can run in families but is not seen as being a contagious condition.

It comes about when the old surface of the tongue starts to replace itself. The top layer does not always come away evenly and therefore leaves a red, sore patch on the tongue.

The patches where the skin stays on longer looks white in comparison.

Sometimes, it is possible for the red patches to become infected with thrush because they are thin and vulnerable, causing them to feel sore.

There is nothing that can make the condition worse, however you may find that when you consume acidic or spicy food and drink that the red patches can become quite painful due to being thin and raw. It would be a good idea to keep a diary of all the foods you eat that make the condition feel sore or uncomfortable so that you can try to avoid consuming them too much.

Unfortunately, there is no known treatment for geographic tongue, but you might find that thrush treatments such as miconazole gel may help to ease the discomfort. These can be bought at the pharmacist, but always check with your dentist or doctor beforehand.

* For more information about dental issues, contact Synergy Dental Clinics Bolton or Bury, email bury@synergydental.org.uk or go to synergydental.org.uk/dentist-in-bury