When we think about taking care of our dental hygiene, many of us don’t think about taking care of the tongue along with our gums and teeth. However, the tongue is a large part of our dental care routine. The tongue can hold onto bacteria, that if not dealt with properly (brushing your tongue when you brush your teeth), can help to aggravate dental issues like cavities and gum disease. Additionally, the tongue can even give us signs of what may be going on with our oral and overall health.
Read on to learn more about what your tongue is saying about your health below.
Signs of a Healthy Tongue
As this article from Healthline points out, before looking at your tongue to assess what’s “wrong” with it, you should have a good idea of what a healthy tongue looks like. According to the article, a healthy tongue is typically pink in color, but it can still vary slightly in dark and light shades. Your tongue also has small nodules (papillae) on the top and bottom.
If your tongue does not look like this, it’s time to get to the bottom of it and see what’s going on with your tongue and your health.
Signs of an Unhealthy Tongue
Bright Red Tongue
A tongue that is bright red (think strawberry red) is often associated with a vitamin deficiency. Often the tongue is overly red because a person is deficient in folic acid or B-12. However, a red tongue can also be a symptom of Kawasaki Disease, a potentially dangerous disease if left untreated. If your child is under 5 years old and they develop a red tongue, it is best to seek medical attention immediately. Another cause for a red tongue could be Scarlet Fever, if your child has a fever and strawberry colored tongue, seek medical attention immediately.
Though less common, it does happen.
Tender, Sore & Bumpy
If your tongue is currently displaying any signs of soreness, tenderness, or irregular bumps it could be a sign of any of the following:
- You might be developing or have already developed a mouth ulcer, more commonly known as a canker sore.
- Possible food allergies (seek medical attention if you have food allergies and notice any irregularities in the tongue)
- Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw can irritate the tongue and cause it to become tender or sore. Talk to your Idaho Falls orthodontist about a mouthguard to wear during the night if you grind your teeth.
- If you have a sore or a lump on the tongue that doesn’t go away after two weeks, this could indicate oral cancer.
Did you know that your tongue can get a yeast infection? Unless you’ve had oral thrush before, chances are you had no idea. If you have a white coating on your tongue that doesn’t go away after giving it a quick brushing, you may have a yeast overgrowth. This usually occurs in infants, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems. It can also be caused by antibiotics. Contact your medical provider or Idaho Falls orthodontist to learn what you can do about oral thrush.
If you notice white patches on your tongue, you probably use tobacco products. White patches on the tongue or Leukoplakia could be a sign of potential oral cancer but is generally a nonissue on its own. Contact your dentist or orthodontist to rule out oral cancer and consider quitting tobacco use entirely to improve your health.
A Hairy, Scary Tongue!
As previously mentioned, the tongue has small nodules, called papillae, on the top and bottom. In some cases, people’s papillae will become excessively long causing the tongue to look dark, even black, and like it is growing hair. However scary this condition may look, it’s easily fixed. The dark color is usually due to the bacteria on the tongue and can go away with proper dental hygiene habits over time.
If your tongue doesn’t look healthy, contact Randall Orthodontics in Idaho Falls today. We can help you determine what may be the underlying cause of your tongue’s new “look” and if further treatment is necessary.