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What Your Tongue Can Say About Your Overall Health

A picture of a tongue

There are a few health conditions that can manifest symptoms on your tongue. You should be regularly checking your tongue for any signs of a problem. If you ever experience pain in your tongue, please make an appointment here at Severance Dental.

Tongue Problems and What They Can Mean

Below are a few common tongue issues and what they might mean for your overall health:

  • Wrinkles – Cracks, wrinkles, or fissures in the tongue are usually harmless, but if you aren’t practicing good oral hygiene, problems may arise. Food buildup can lead to a deep fungal infection inside the crevices of the tongue, leading to bigger issues. Make sure you brush your tongue when brushing your teeth!
  • White patches – Painless white patches are caused by excessive growth of cells on the tongue. These patches are most commonly associated with tobacco smoking and have a 5-15% chance of developing into cancer. If you aren’t a smoker, these patches may be the result of the tongue rubbing against the teeth. Get the patches checked out if they last longer than a week or two.
  • Strawberry red tongue – If your tongue appears glossy and bright red, it might be a sign that you’re lacking iron and/or vitamin B12. Vegetarians are especially prone to vitamin B12 deficiencies. If you notice that your tongue is red and smooth, you should ask your doctor about taking vitamin supplements. 
  • Black or brown fuzz – The appearance of what looks like black or brown hair or fuzz on the tongue may be an indicator that you need to pay more attention to your oral hygiene. ‘Black and hairy tongue,’ the official name for the diagnosis, is not cause for too much concern and can be brought on by bad oral hygiene, smoking, or drinking coffee. Brushing your tongue frequently may be all it takes to avoid this issue.
  • Cottage cheese texture – If your tongue is coated in a white, lumpy substance, you may be suffering from an oral yeast infection called thrush. Thrush is common in chemotherapy patients, small children, people with diabetes, those with autoimmune disorders, and the elderly. If you have thrush, you need to visit your doctor.
  • Red lesions – Unlike canker sores, which typically resolve themselves after two weeks, red lesions or patches that don’t resolve themselves can be more serious. While typically attributed to tobacco use, oral cancer can also be caused by the same virus that causes HPV. Get red lesions checked out whether they’re painful or not.

If you’re concerned about tongue or gum tissue problems in your mouth, please make an appointment here at Severance Dental. Our office is located in Severance, Colorado.  

Posted on Jun 8, 2020

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