For insight into your oral health and overall well-being, stick out your tongue and look in the mirror! A healthy tongue appears pink and will be covered in small nodules called papillae. Changes to the look or feel of your tongue may be cause for concern. Read on to determine what your tongue is telling you about your health.
White Coating or White Spots:
- Oral Thrush – a yeast infection that develops inside the mouth. It causes creamy white lesions on the tongue or inner cheeks. However, it can also spread to the roof of your mouth, gums, and even the back of your throat. If you are experiencing symptoms of oral thrush, your immune system may be weakened.
- Leukoplakia – a condition where the cells in the mouth grow excessively causing white patches on the tongue. Doctors are uncertain of the exact cause, but irritation from chronic tobacco use is a leading culprit. This condition could be a precursor to cancer, so if you experience white patches on your tongue contact your dental provider for an evaluation.
- Oral lichen planus – a chronic inflammatory condition affecting mucous membranes inside the mouth. This condition will appear as white lines on the tongue that may resemble lace. Oral lichen planus cannot transfer from one individual to another, and symptoms can be managed.
- Vitamin deficiency – Folic acid and B-12 deficiencies may cause the tongue to appear red. A simple blood test can help you to determine if this is the cause.
- Scarlet fever – an infection that causes the tongue to have a red and bumpy appearance. If you notice your tongue looks like this, see your doctor to be prescribed antibiotics.
Black and Hairy Tongue:
Like the hair on the rest of your body, the papillae on your tongue grow throughout your lifetime. For some individuals, these papillae can become excessively long and appear dark in color. This condition is uncommon but may be a sign you should step up your oral hygiene,
Consider watching your tongue when you brush and floss as deviation from the typical appearance may mean you should consult your provider. Remember to schedule regular check-ups with your dentist so that any concerning developments can be rapidly evaluated.