Is Your Tongue Healthy? Does It Matter?
Tongues often get overlooked when people are on a quest to have a beautiful smile. When you think about it, tongues play an important role in helping you to taste food and speak properly.
Your tongue can also reveal things about your health. A healthy tongue should be pink, pain-free, and covered in tiny projections called papillae. Changes in its color, texture, or sensations could indicate issues with your oral health along with other conditions within your body.
Why Isn’t My Tongue Pink?
Some people’s tongues naturally have lighter or darker patches. This is normal provided that yours still fits within the range of pink shades.
Geographic tongue is a condition that affects around 1 to 3% of the population. It causes red patches on the tongue. These may have red and gray borders. The condition is considered harmless, but some people note that they experience burning sensations.
Tongues that appear white may have a coating of debris and bacteria that are causing inflammation within the papillae. This can sometimes be remedied by increasing your oral hygiene. Dental cleanings also help to keep bacteria levels down in your mouth.
White patches on your tongue and in other areas of your mouth could indicate oral thrush. Younger children and senior adults are more likely to develop this condition. The infection is easily cleared up with medication, but it could indicate underlying diseases such as diabetes.
A bright red tongue can mean multiple things about your health. Vitamin B deficiencies present with this as a symptom. Certain illnesses, such as scarlet fever, may temporarily cause your tongue to turn red.
Is a Hairy Tongue Bad?
Healthy papillae on your tongue create a velvety appearance. They should all be fairly uniform in height and barely noticeable when you look in the mirror.
Occasionally, these papillae enlarge in response to changes in your body. The hairy papillae may also appear to be black, brown, or yellowish shade.
Hairy tongues may be due to an overgrowth of bacteria. Certain medications, such as an extended round of antibiotics, can cause the papilla to change their length. People with diabetes or who are undergoing radiation treatment may develop a hairy tongue.
Although it may be unsightly, a hairy tongue may not always be preventable if you need to take certain medications. In other instances, correcting your health issues can cause your tongue to return to normal.
People who are missing several teeth may not be able to chew foods that help the papilla to shed properly. Tooth replacement can return normal functioning to the mouth that affects the growth process in the papillae.
What Does a Sore on Your Tongue Mean?
Almost everyone has experienced the discomfort of a sore tongue. Sores from burns and other common accidents are usually not anything to worry about. These should heal within one to two weeks unless there is a problem.
Sores that do not heal could be indicative of oral cancer. Recurring sores along the side of your tongue can also clue us in to an issue with nighttime tooth grinding.
During dental exams, our Tempe dentist will take a look at your tongue. If we notice unusual symptoms, then we let you know what to do next. Take a moment to look at your tongue every now and then during your oral hygiene routine. Many changes in its texture or color are easily corrected with early care.