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What Can Your Tongue Teach You about Your Health?

Posted on 10/23/2015 by Nic Grasvik
A woman using  tongue scraper to improve her oral health.Did you know that your tongue can actually hold a lot of important information about your health? If you notice that your tongue is starting to look different, whether it is taking on a different color or suddenly has an unusual texture, you should consult with your dentist. Simply inspecting your tongue and the rest of your mouth can give your dentist important insight into the rest of your overall health.

White Coating or Spots

If you notice that your tongue has a white coating on it, or if it is covered in white spots, you could have one of several things going on:

•  Oral thrush. This is a yeast infection that can develop inside of the mouth, and it appears as white patches that look like cottage cheese. It is commonly seen in children and older people, especially people who wear dentures.
•  Oral lichen planus. This condition can cause a series of raised, white lines on the tongue that appear similar to lace. This condition will usually resolve on its own, and it is not known what causes it.
•  Leukoplakia. This condition can cause the cells of the mouth to grow in excess, leading to white patches. It often begins with irritation of the tongue, and in some cases it may be a cancer precursor. If you see what you think might be leukoplakia, you should be sure to contact your dentist right away.

Brown or Black Tongue

If your tongue appears to be dark colored and looks like it is covered in hairs, this could be a sign that you aren't practicing the best hygiene. This condition is actually known as "black and hairy tongue," and while it may certainly look unsightly, it isn't usually the cause for great concern. This condition can be brought on by drinking coffee or dark teas or smoking, and usually removal of the offending cause is the only treatment that you'll need.

Red Tongue

If your tongue appears red in color, your dentist may evaluate you for one of several conditions:

•  Vitamin deficiency. A tongue that is a glossy, bright red in color could be a sign that your body is lacking vitamin B12 or iron. Both of these vitamins are needed to help the papillae found on the tongue to mature, and without them, your tongue can actually "bald," making it extremely sensitive to spicy foods or hot liquids.
•  Kawasaki disease. This condition can give your tongue a strawberry red appearance. It is generally seen in young children along with a high fever, and if you notice that your child has developed these symptoms, you should have him seen by his primary care physician right away.
•  Geographic tongue. This interestingly-named condition causes a pattern of red spots to appear on the tongue in the pattern of a map. They can have white borders around them and may move with time. However, the condition is generally harmless.

Sore Tongue

Does your tongue suddenly fee sore? Accidentally biting the tongue and other trauma is a main reason that the tongue can feel sore, but smoking may also irritate the tongue and the rest of your mouth, causing soreness. Canker sores could also be the culprit, as many people develop them on the tongue, possibly because of stress The most serious of the potential causes of a sore tongue is oral cancer, so if you notice a sore or lump on your tongue that doesn't go away in a couple of weeks, you should be sure to contact your dentist for an evaluation.

Is there something weird going on inside of your mouth? Please contact our office to set up an appointment.

PREFERRED DENTAL
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Dr. Nicholas Grasvik
4690 SW Hall Blvd
Beaverton, OR 97005

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(503) 350-1234

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