Woman looking at her tongue checking for health concerns

What Your Tongue Says About Your Health

You’re probably used to checking your teeth and gums for any signs of irritation or infection. You spend ample time brushing and flossing to ensure you have a beautiful, healthy smile. But are you inspecting your tongue at any point? Probably not unless you recently bit it or burned it on something hot.

Did you know that your tongue can tell you a lot about your health? It’s true. A healthy tongue should be pink with small nodules covering it. If it looks different, that could be a sign of a larger problem. The color and texture of your tongue can offer a lot of details about not just your oral health but also your overall health.

So, what does the tongue reveal about your health? Here are some common symptoms to look out for when looking at your tongue.

White Patches or a White Coating

If you see white patches or a creamy white coating when you stick out your tongue, you may have an overgrowth and swelling of the papillae, the little bumps that make up the surface and sides of the tongue. It’s usually a result of poor oral hygiene but could be a result of something more serious. The white spots are dead cells and bacteria that have gotten trapped.

Along with bad oral care, several conditions can cause white patches on the tongue, including:

Oral thrush – This is a fungal infection that accumulates and appears on your tongue and throughout your mouth, such as your inner cheeks, the roof of your mouth, and the back of your throat. It’s simply an imbalance between good and harmful microbes in your body. It usually results from a weakened immune system or from wearing dentures. It can also develop from diabetes and from taking medication, such as antibiotics.    

Leukoplakia – Commonly found in the mouths of people who smoke, leukoplakia is characterized by thickened white grayish patches that may or may not be able to be scraped away. Although the white lesions are usually benign, they could be a precursor to cancer and should be checked out by a dentist or other healthcare provider.

Red Spots or Beefy-Red Tongue

If you notice red spots on your tongue or your tongue appears bright red, it could be an indication that you’re suffering from a vitamin deficiency. A B12 deficiency can make your tongue bright red and sore.

Red spots can also indicate an underlying medical condition, such as strep throat or another virus.

Bumpy Tongue

If you’re experiencing a sore tongue with a bumpy texture, it could signal something completely harmless or something much more severe.

Trauma – We’ve all accidentally bitten our tongue or burned it on something scalding. A bite or burn can leave your tongue sore and a little uneven until it heals. If you grind or clench your teeth, the sides of your tongue can also become bumpy and irritated. Obviously, these situations and conditions are no real concern and will heal on their own.

Oral Cancer – As harmless as a bump on your tongue could be, it could also be potentially life-threatening. If you notice a bump on your tongue that doesn’t go away after a couple of weeks, you should immediately schedule an appointment with your dentist. Don’t be fooled if your tongue doesn’t hurt or you aren’t in pain. Oral cancers don’t usually hurt in the early stages.

Black and Hairy Appearance

Sounds gross, we know. But, just like the hair on your body grows, so do the papillae on your tongue. As a result, they can become overgrown and become excessively long. When this happens, it becomes easier for bacteria to get trapped and fester. This is very similar to what happens when white patches form, but instead of being white, you will notice black hairy patches that actually appear hair-like.

Just like with the white patches, this can be caused by diabetes or from taking medication. However, it’s commonly seen in individuals who do not practice good dental hygiene.

Watch Your Tongue – Color and Texture

Just as your teeth and gum health are important, so is your tongue health. Your tongue’s appearance says a lot about your health. You should always brush your tongue when you’re brushing your teeth. This helps to clean it of bacteria growth and other debris like food. Plus, it will give you a chance to look and feel for anything out of the ordinary or of concern.

If you notice anything abnormal on your tongue or anywhere else in your mouth, contact your dentist for further evaluation. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. For more information about oral health conditions or to schedule an appointment, contact VIPcare Dental today!