Have you ever just stopped in front of a mirror and looked at your tongue? It seems strange, yes, but your tongue can tell you a lot about your health. This is why you might have noticed that your doctor asks you to stick your tongue out during your annual physical.
Unfortunately, the tongue is also one of those parts of the body that we often take for granted. Some people don’t even brush their tongue while brushing their teeth! But you have to start paying attention to and taking care of your tongue. After all, it plays a key role in our ability to eat and breathe. This is important, especially right now, when appointments with your dentist should be limited to emergencies.
Start taking charge of your oral health by paying attention to your tongue. Here’s what its appearance says about your health:
If your tongue has white patches or coating
The tongue is supposed to be in a pinkish or pastel red shade. But because of the food you eat, sometimes temporary discoloration occurs. If your tongue has white patches or coating, though, it might mean two things:
- Oral thrush – this is a type of yeast infection in your mouth. This is usually seen in babies and elderly people who use dentures. However, you might also notice this on your tongue if you’re taking medications like antibiotics or if you have a condition that weakens your immune system like diabetes. Fortunately, it can be treated with an antifungal drug, and your tongue can return to its natural pink color.
- Leukoplakia – this is a condition where cells in the mouth grow excessively. It happens when the tongue has been irritated, such as when you use tobacco products. While not dangerous in itself, it could also be a precursor to cancer.
If your tongue is red
While the tongue has a slightly reddish tint to it, it shouldn’t have the color of strawberries. If you notice that your tongue is bright red, it might mean that you have:
- Scarlet fever – red tongue and high body temperature are symptoms of scarlet fever, so you will need the help of a physician.
- Vitamin deficiency – if you lack vitamin B-12 and folic acid, your tongue might be sore and take on a reddish appearance. Taking supplements and adopting a change in your diet can help with this problem.
If your tongue is black and hairy-looking
Having a dark, “hairy” mouth sounds strange (and disgusting), but it happens. Though your tongue might not have actual hair, the papillae or tiny bumps on the surface of your mouth grow and elongate. If you notice this, this might indicate poor oral hygiene.
Apart from the elongation of your tongue’s papillae, you might also see discoloration and halitosis or bad breath. Anything excessive, such as smoking or coffee drinking, can result in this condition. Fortunately, it’s not serious and can be treated by brushing or scraping your tongue.
Now that you know what your mouth might be telling you, it’s essential to check it daily. Pair regular monitoring with excellent oral hygiene, and you can keep your mouth healthy.