We all know our tongue as that valued part of our mouth that allows us to swallow, speak and taste. The tongue is actually a muscular organ that is covered with a moist layer of mucosa and thousands of tiny taste buds. What you may not know, however, is that the condition and color of your tongue can reveal underlying problems within your dental health and overall health. Your dentist can take a look at your tongue and identify any possible problems with your health.
Your Tongue and Your Oral Health
One of the biggest mistakes patients make during daily oral hygiene is neglecting to clean their tongue. Considering its constant presence against the teeth and gums, forgetting to remove bacteria, plaque and food debris from the tongue can sabotage your brushing and flossing habits on your teeth. Not only does your tongue carry bacteria, it is typically a favorite area for bacteria to live and breed. The tongue is dark and moist with tiny grooves that are perfect for storing away harmful bacteria. If not brushed on a daily basis, your tongue can transfer bacteria back to the teeth and gums within seconds after you brush. A dirty tongue can lead to decay, gum disease and most of all – bad breath!
The Color of Your Tongue Can Reveal This
One of the most revealing characteristics about your tongue is its color. Regardless of your race, age or gender, healthy tongues are generally light pink with some white on the surface. If your tongue shows a different color, this can be an indication of something else going on in your body. Here is some insight as to what your tongue color could mean:
- Red – A pink tongue is healthy but a bright red tongue may indicate something serious within your overall health, such as inflammation, infection, a blood disease, a heart condition or a vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Yellow – Several things can cause the tongue to have a yellow coating, including bacteria buildup, smoking, alcohol use, excessive coffee drinking and dry mouth as well as inflammation of the stomach lining, a weakened immune system and jaundice. There are also certain oral products that can make your tongue look yellow.
- Blue – Blue indicates poor oxygen, which can be caused by respiratory issues, kidney disease or a blood disorder.
- Gray – Gray tongues often reveal digestive issues or stomach ulcers.
- White – Tongues with a thick and lumpy white coating could indicate oral thrush (fungal infection). However, if you have a slight white hue to your tongue, it could simply mean that you are dehydrated.
- Black – Dark and “hairy” tongues may have enlarged papillae that trap bacteria. Certain antibiotics, poor oral hygiene and smoking can contribute to a black or dark tongue.
Bumps and Changes in Your Tongue
The tongue is known to have ulcers or uncomfortable sores from time to time. However, if you have a bump that is not going away after 2 weeks, or you notice an unusual change in your tongue’s texture or appearance, let your dentist take a look. Oral cancer can occur anywhere in the mouth, including any surface of your tongue. It is important to catch symptoms of oral cancer early when they are most treatable.
Want to know more about your tongue health? Has it been six months since you’ve seen a dentist? Book an appointment with Park South Dentistry. We offer preventative dental care as well as cosmetic, restorative and implant dentistry in a comfortable environment!