Your eyes may be the window to your soul, but your mouth is the gateway to your health. After all, there is a reason why your doctor asks you to open your mouth and say “ahhhh” every time you fall sick. So, go ahead and stick it out and look in the mirror.
If you are wondering whether your tongue. is “healthy” or not, keep reading to find out more about the signs you should be on the lookout for.
Oral cavity serves important functions, such as chewing, swallowing, speaking, breathing, etc. Together, they provide vital information about every system in your body.
What Your Tongue Can Reveal About Your Overall Health
1. White Coating on Tongue
Your tongue is supposed to be an exquisite shade of pink. If parts of your tongue appear to be coated in white patches with a cottage cheese-like appearance, this could be oral thrush, a yeast overgrowth that occurs inside the oral cavity. Oral thrush is very common in immunocompromised people and the ones suffering from conditions such as HIV/AIDS, uncontrolled/untreated diabetes, and asthmatics using inhalers.
Leukoplakia is another condition that can mimic oral thrush. It is characterised by one or more white patches/spots (lesions) on the inside of the mouth. Again very common in the immunocompromised, heavy smokers, areca nut chewers, etc. It is also known to increase the risk of oral cancers, so when in doubt, it is best to consult a specialist/dentist if you notice this symptom.
However, it could just be from not cleaning your tongue every time you brush your teeth. You do that, don’t you? If the whitish coat disappears on thorough cleaning, then you have nothing to worry about.
2. Red Tongue
Most often, a red or purple (not dark pink) tongue is associated with a vitamin deficiency such as folic acid, B12 or iron and the treatment is simple, a vitamin supplement.
it can also imply a fever, strep throat, eczema, or Kawasaki disease. Red patches with white borders (map-like pattern), could be an inflammatory but harmless condition known as ‘geographic tongue’.
3. Irregular Red Bumpy Patches
Bumps or sores especially under your tongue can be ‘canker’ or cold sores. This could occur as a result of biting, tobacco chewing/smoking, stress, or aphthous ulcers. Unless these bumps/sores have been persistent or painful they do not necessitate a visit to the doctor.
Instead, you can try some DIY/home remedies such as gargling with warm salted water, chewing on mint leaves, or eating something bland and cold (like curd/yogurt). It is best to avoid triggers such as spicy food, soft drinks, and oily or greasy food like french fries.
Though it may be nothing to worry about, it is best to discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider periodically.
4. Black And Hairy Tongue
Yes, sounds strange, but sometimes a protein build-up can turn small bumps into longer strands, trapping food and bacteria resulting in what looks like strands of hair on your tongue. A few causes are – poor oral hygiene, uncontrolled diabetes, cancer therapy, etc.
Usually, a good brushing or tongue scraping will take care of it, but if it does not, a trip to the dentist is in order.
5. Yellow Tongue
It is usually a result of a harmless buildup of dead skin cells and bacteria on the surface of your (papillae). Causes can range from poor oral hygiene, and tobacco smoking to mouth breathing.
Sometimes, it could be suggestive of systemic illnesses such as jaundice and psoriasis. Schedule a doctor’s visit if the persistent discolouration is bothering you or have other associated symptoms such as fever, or yellowish discolouration of eyes and skin.
6. Dry Tongue
Normally, there should be some sort of glare, but if it’s very dry, you might just see some saliva buildup or a cracked tongue. A dry mouth can be due to:
- A side effect of certain medications such antihistamines, antidepressants, broncho-dilators, muscle-relaxants, etc.
- Certain diseases and infections such as Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, cystic fibrosis, hypertension, HIV/AIDS, Epstein-Barr virus, etc.
- Dehydration due to fever, volume loss due to vomiting, diarrhoea, trauma (blood loss), or severe burns.
- Surgical removal of salivary glands.
- Habits such as smoking or tobacco chewing can decrease the production of saliva.
- Mouth breathing.
7. Swollen Tongue
If your tongue appears puffier or larger than usual, especially after eating, it could be due to a simple food allergy. A scratchy feeling in the back of the throat can also indicate an allergic reaction.
Apart from allergies, other potential causes are – trauma/injury, malnutrition, vitamin deficiency, certain medications or medical conditions, sexually transmitted infections (syphilis, gonorrhoea, HPV), and GERD (gastro-oesophageal reflux disease).
Point to remember: Severe and rapid swelling may be a sign of a potentially life-threatening allergy known as anaphylaxis. This is an emergency and this warrants immediate medical intervention.
Tongue is a body part that is often overlooked, can provide helpful insights into your overall health. So the next time you get out of the shower, wipe off the mirror, open your mouth, and inspect your tongue. You will be amazed at what you find!
Each time you brush and floss your teeth, be sure to brush your tongue as well. You can brush it with a regular toothbrush or invest in a scraper to remove excess buildup. Our dental team also checks the tongue for signs of oral cancer or other health problems during each dental visit at Infinity Dental.