Unless you burn your tongue from eating something too hot, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about it. But you might be surprised at what your tongue can tell you about your oral and general health. And while a dentist in Macedonia spends a lot of time examining your teeth and gums, they also look at your tongue to make sure it’s healthy. Keep reading to learn about 4 symptoms you may notice on your tongue that can alert you to other issues!
1. Your Tongue Is Red
Your tongue should normally be pink in color. If it’s dark red, it could be a sign of the following conditions:
- Geographic tongue– This condition is often harmless and causes reddish “map-like” spots on the tongue that can move or migrate over time. It may cause a burning sensation or your tongue may be sensitive to hot or spicy foods.
- Allergies – If your tongue suddenly becomes swollen, red or tender, you could be having an allergic reaction to a medication, food, or oral care product.
- Vitamin deficiency– A red tongue may be a sign of a folic acid or vitamin B-12 deficiency.
2. You Notice White Patches or a White Coating
A white coating or patches may indicate any of the following:
- Thrush – Oral thrush often appears as a white film on the tongue, cheeks or palate. There may be no symptoms. If there are, there may be a mild burning sensation or an unpleasant, salty or bitter taste. A dentist can prescribe anti-fungal medication to treat it.
- Oral lichen planus– These raised white plaques on the top of your tongue may wax and wane over weeks to months and usually go away on their own.
- Leukoplakia – This occurs from an overgrowth of the cells in your mouth in response to some kind of irritation such as tobacco use. Other causes include alcohol, UV radiation, certain microogranisms and trauma. It can be a precursor to oral cancer, so it’s important to have it evaluated.
3. Your Tongue is Tender or Bumpy
Here are some potential reasons for a tender or bumpy tongue:
- Canker sores– If you notice a small, oval-shaped ulcer on your tongue, you might have a canker sore. They’re fairly common and are oftentimes a bit painful. The direct cause of canker sores is unknown.
- Trauma– If you’ve inadvertently bitten or otherwise injured your tongue, you’ll likely have temporary redness and discomfort.
- Oral cancer – If you notice a sore or lesion (even one that isn’t painful) that hasn’t gone away within two weeks, call a dentist in Macedonia to take a look.
4. Your Tongue Appears Black and “Hairy”
Your tongue is coated in papillae, which continue growing throughout your lifetime. They can become quite long in some people and attract bacteria that appears dark or black.
This condition is relatively common and typically occurs in heavy smokers, those with poor oral hygiene, people who have undergone radiation treatment to the head or neck area, or chronic or extensive use of medications.
Regular dental care and great oral hygiene are the foundation of keeping your tongue and overall smile in good shape. And, since there’s a strong mouth-body connection, it’s also a good idea to periodically take a look at your tongue and see what it’s telling you!
About the Author
Dr. Dan Greenwood is a dentist near Macedonia and a graduate of the Ohio State University College of Dentistry. With almost 25 years of experience and a thorough understanding of oral pathology, he’s able to diagnose, treat, and help prevent any conditions his patients may have. If you have any questions about your tongue or overall oral health, he can be reached via his website.