You may be surprised at what your tongue can reveal about your overall health. The texture and color of your tongue can signal health conditions ranging from nutritional deficiencies to diabetes. Here’s a look at some tongue features to watch out for:
Do you suddenly notice areas of discoloration on your tongue? If it lingers after diligent brushing, it may thrush (or overgrowth of candida or yeast). Antibiotics, diabetes, chemotherapy, and steroids can all increase your risk for thrush. Fortunately, this is treatable with an anti-fungal rinse or pill. Always tell your doctor of your findings because white patches can also be a sign of leukoplakia or oral cancer.
A webbed or striped look could be an indication of oral lichen planus, a chronic condition that develops when your immune system attacks the cells in your mouth. Middle-aged women are more likely to have this condition.
Do you have ridges or indentions on your tongue? While these are typically not cause for an alarm, it can create extra space for food to get stuck if the indentation is deep enough. In such cases, put forth some extra effort when you brush your tongue.
Strep throat and scarlet fever are bacterial conditions that are often associated with a red tongue. This is usually accompanied by a fever. However, a tongue that looks more red than usual can also signal a vitamin deficiency. You may want to consider getting your folic acid, B12 and iron levels checked. Another culprit for a red tongue is a dry mouth, which needs to be addressed by your dentist so that other dental problems don’t result.
Every tongue has small bumps; these are normal taste buds. However, if you notice a large bump or one that is sore to touch, you may have an inflamed taste bud, canker sore or fibroma (from biting your tongue). Never ignore a new bump or lesion on your tongue that does not go away within two weeks.
Although it is quite alarming, this condition is generally not something to be worried about. It can be a result of antibiotic use, a yeast infection, diabetes, cancer therapies, or poor oral hygiene. The black and hairy appearance happens when the tongue cells grow quicker than your body can shed them.
These are just a few of the countless characteristics that your tongue can display. We all have a unique tongue. Sometimes the color or texture of your tongue is something you were born with and not a reason to rush to the doctor. However, it is important to keep an eye on your tongue for new changes that could signal a health problem. Go ahead and say “ahhh” and perform a self-check on your tongue periodically.