Open your mouth and say “ahh”. How’s your tongue looking? If it’s anything other than an even, light-pink tone, read on to discover what your tongue could be saying about your health.
Your tongue is the first stop on your digestive tract, which means that it’s strongly linked to the health of your gut and the rest of your body. When something is unusual about the tongue, this is a sign there is something going on with your overall health.
Here are some of the main things your dentist or doctor could be looking out for when they take a look inside your mouth.
Patterns on your tongue
Check your mouth for uneven red patches. They’re usually on your tongue but can also be on your gums, your cheeks, on the roof of your mouth, or under your tongue. This condition is called geographic tongue, and it is believed to affect up to 3 percent of the population. The patches associated with geographic tongue are usually devoid of the normal bumps (papillae) that coat your tongue, and the patches can change shape frequently from day to day. While scientists aren’t sure of the cause of the condition, they do know that it often occurs with other conditions, such as psoriasis, arthritis, diabetes, and hormone irregularities. Currently, geographic tongue is believed to be harmless and may clear up on its own.
An unusually red tongue
Your tongue should be a healthy pink color, but if it is bright or dark red, this could be a sign of health problems. Folic acid, iron, and vitamin B-12 deficiencies, and strep throat may all cause your tongue to take on a reddish appearance. In addition, menopausal hormone changes can cause the tongue to turn red and abnormally smooth. Rather than being an ailment itself, a red tongue hints at an underlying problem with your overall health. Discuss your symptoms with a medical professional who can recommend the appropriate supplement or medication.
White dots on your tongue
White patches insides your mouth could indicate an oral yeast infection. This condition is most commonly seen in people with weakened immune systems, such as infants and the elderly. People who wear dentures, people with diabetes, and those who are taking inhalers, oral steroids or antibiotics are also susceptible to oral thrush. Probiotics such as Saccharomyces Cerevisiae could help reinstate the balance of microorganisms in your mouth to reduce the growth of yeast.
Sore spots or bumps on your tongue
Some bumps are normal, especially if you’ve bitten your tongue, eaten a lot of high-acid foods, or if you have a cold or fever. However, any growth on the tongue that causes soreness and does not dissipate over time may be cause for concern. Some types of oral HPV can cause cancers of the head and neck area, while others can cause warts in the mouth or throat. Anything that lasts beyond two to four weeks and continues to get worse could be a sign of oral cancer and should be checked out by your doctor immediately. Sore bumps on your tongue could also be cold sores related to herpes.
Ridges along the sides of your tongue
If you see curved ridges along the sides of your tongue, this could be a sign of jaw-clenching related to anxiety and stress. Over a period of time, pressing your tongue against your teeth can leave indentations. You may also notice jaw pain, teeth grinding, and headaches. Another cause of a scalloped tongue could be hypothyroidism, a thyroid disorder characterized by low levels of thyroid hormone. When thyroid hormone levels are low, you may experience an enlarged or swollen tongue and those trademark scalloped edges.
A “webbed” or stripy-looking tongue
A webbed or striped looking tongue is caused by an inflammatory condition known as oral lichen planus. This condition is not contagious but could put you at a higher risk for mouth cancer, so it is important to monitor the condition. The best way to treat this is to practice proper dental hygiene and avoid tobacco and foods that may irritate your mouth.
On the other hand, ‘hairy’-looking strands, whether black or white, can be associated with HIV or fungal overgrowth. A black ‘hairy’ tongue can also be a side effect of cancer treatment, diabetes, or poor oral hygiene. Try using mouthwash regularly, and employ a tongue scraper to remove debris from the tongue.
Cracks in your tongue
While a certain amount of cracks in your tongue are normal, if the cracks are uncomfortable, these could be a side effect associated with blood pressure medication, diuretics, or allergy medication. To overcome this condition, try to stay well-hydrated and avoid caffeine. Discuss any potential medication changes with your trusted practitioner. Another cause of cracks in the tongue could be syphilis.
As it turns out, your tongue has a lot to say about your health. Next time you brush your teeth, be sure to check your tongue in the mirror and let your doctor or dentist know about anything unusual you notice.
-The UpWellness Team