What Does Your Tongue Say About Your Health?

By: Dr. Rebecca Koenigsberg

Stick your tongue out at the mirror and look closely. Bumps, patches and spots found on your tongue and mouth can be harmless, but sometimes it’s a red flag indicating something’s amiss with your overall health. 

A White Tongue

Oral Thrush – A white tongue might indicate Oral Thrush, a yeast infection that develops inside the mouth. This is commonly seen in infants and the elderly, especially denture wearers. Oral Thrush also sometimes occurs in people suffering from diabetes or with weakened immune symptoms. If you suspect you might have Oral Thrush, see your doctor. Unlike other yeast infections, thrush can’t be treated with over-the-counter products.

Leukoplakia – This condition occurs when cells in the mouth grow excessively leading to white patches on the tongue and inside the mouth. It’s often seen in people who use tobacco products and can be a precursor to cancer. But it isn’t necessarily dangerous on it’s own. In many cases this condition can be reversed when you stop smoking and will prevent you from getting oral cancer. 

A Red Tongue

Vitamin deficiency– Folic acid and vitamin 12 deficiencies can cause your tongue develop a reddish appearance

Scarlet fever – is an infection that causes the tongue to have a red and bumpy appearance. If you have a high fever and a red tongue, see your doctor. Antibiotics are necessary for treatment

Kawasaki disease – This is a potentially serious condition that can cause the tongue to have a red and bumpy strawberry-like appearance. It is seen in children under the age of 5 and can cause a high fever. If your child has these symptoms see a doctor immediately, this is a serious condition.


A Black And Hairy Tongue 

Much like hair, the papillae on your tongue grow steadily through your lifetime. It can become excessively long in some people, which can harbor bacteria. 

Bacteria may cause your tongue to look dark or black and the overgrown papillae can appear hair like. Although this condition isn’t common, or serious, it’s most likely to develop in people with poor oral hygiene. It also can occur in people who suffer from diabetes, taking antibiotics or receive chemotherapy.


A Sore And Bumpy Tongue

Painful bumps on your tongue can be caused by:

Trauma– Accidentally biting your tongue, burning it on hot pizza or grinding and clenching your teeth can irritate the sides of your tongue making it painful. 

Canker sores – Stress can cause mouth sores, which usually heal within a week or two.

Oral Cancer – A lump or sore in your mouth that doesn’t go away in a week or two could indicate oral cancer. Many oral cancers don’t hurt in the beginning stages, so don’t assume that lack of pain means nothing is wrong. Though oral cancer is typically attributed to tobacco use, the HPV virus can also cause it.

 Hygiene and Checkup

Everyone should check their tongue daily when they brush their teeth and tongue. The tongue must cleaned daily with a soft brush to remove all food debris and discourage tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath 

Any discoloration, lump or pain should be monitored and evaluated by a medical or dental professional if it doesn’t go away within two weeks. Dental check ups should include a proper exam of your tongue. Dentists are trained to look for red flag signs you may not notice and subtle clues of mouth cancer. 

Call 212.246.8700 to find out more information or click here to schedule an appointment with Gallery57Dental. Follow Gallery 57 Dental on Facebook here!

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