Tongue Health: What Your Tongue Says about Your General Health

Your tongue says quite a bit about your health in general. The proof is in the fact that doctor’s tell patients, “Stick out your tongue” during routine exams. That’s because your tongue helps doctors determine where various other health problems exist. In Chinese medicine, the common belief is that the tongue give an accurate reflection of every disease in your body.

Dark Tongue

Your tongue should be a pinkish color. If it’s black or dark brown, your diet or some type of medicine you’re taking could be the problem. Pepto Bismol and other bismuth medications have side effects that can make your tongue turn black. Coffee, chewing tobacco and smoking can also cause this, with the latter two causing high risk of oral cancer.

Sore Spots

Mouth ulcers and canker sores can occur on the tongue and anywhere else within your mouth. They can cause extreme pain. Tongue-biting, excessive consumption of citrus fruits, or having a fever or cold can cause them to flare up. They should heal and disappear within 7-10 days. If they last longer and seem to refuse to heal, this may be a symptom oral cancer.

Hairy Tongue

The top of your tongue is made up of hair-like protein called keratin. It’s actually covered with them, although they’re unnoticeable, generally. However, there are medical conditions that cause the keratin to become elongated. This makes your tongue appear to be hairy. Very dry mouth, consuming antibiotics and bacterial infection are the three most common causes of hairy tongue.

White Tongue

Once again, your tongue should be pink. So, if it appears pasty and white, even if only in patches, your may have some sort of tongue infection. Two of the most common infections known to cause white tongue are autoimmune-related inflammatory disease and bacterial overgrowth. Thrush is one of the possible causes. This is an overgrowth of yeast, known as candida bacteria.

Burning Sensation

Oral dysesthesia, also known as burning mouth syndrome, causes burning and pain on the tongue, as well as in the entire mouth. The burning sensation may come and go during the course of the day, or it could be continuous. This condition is known to affect post-menstrual (menopausal) women most. In others, some possible causes include nutritional deficiencies, dry mouth caused by certain medications or bacterial infections.

Painful, Red Tongue

When your tongue takes on a dark or bright red color, a niacin deficiency called pellagra or other nutritional deficiency may exist. It could also be blamed on anemia or a lack of vitamin B-12 or folic acid in your diet. Other potential culprits include acidic foods, gum, mouthwash or certain toothpaste flavors. For the record, though, it could simply be a temporary issue related to something you ate.

Bumpy Surface

The top of the tongue contains projections called filiform papillae, which stick up slightly. Every once in a while, one or more may become sore, red or inflamed. If the surface is back normal within a few days, there’s nothing to worry about. However, if it starts to become tender or painful, this may be a symptom of oral cancer.

For more info check out our preventative care page

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