You may not think about your tongue and oral health very often, but it can be an early indicator of other issues. The shape, color, bumps, patches, and other characteristics of your tongue is your body trying to communicate a problem to you. Here are a few things you need to pay attention to.
White Patches on Your Tongue
White patches on your tongue can indicate a fungal infection, lichen planus (an immune system response) or leukoplakia, which is linked to cancer. Patches can appear spotty, lace-like (on tongue or inner cheeks) or be hard and flat and don’t go away when scraped. White patches can also be related to an overgrowth of yeast called thrush or candidiasis—found most often in newborns, pregnant women, the elderly as well as people taking antibiotics and those with dry mouth or who wear dentures. If you have any white discoloration on your tongue or in your mouth, see your dentist as soon as possible.
Viruses such as Epstein-Barr or HIV can cause oral hairy leukoplakia, which are hairy white patches that don’t go away when scraped. Other appearances may be black, brown or white “fur-like” tongues, when the bumps on your tongue grow into longer strands that go away when scraped. The appearance of a hair-like tongue can also be a sign of poor oral hygiene as well as dry mouth, tobacco use, or a reaction to certain medications. Please make an appointment with your dentist if you are experiencing these symptoms.
Bright Red “Strawberry” Tongue
A tongue that looks enlarged and/or bright red with strawberry-like bumps can be caused by food or drug allergies, strep throat or Kawasaki disease. It can also be a symptom of scarlet fever. If accompanied by pain, you may have a vitamin B3 deficiency.
Glossy, Pale, Smooth Tongue
If you find that your tongue is smooth and glossy or pale, you may be suffering from an iron deficiency or a lack of folic acid or any of the B vitamins. This condition can also be caused by celiac disease, an infection or a medication.
If You Notice Any Changes with Your Tongue, Call Us or Contact Us Right Away!
Bumps on or Under Your Tongue
Bumps located on or under your tongue can be a canker sore or papillitis, which will go away on their own. However, some bumps can be an indicator of oral cancer. You should have any questionable bumps checked by your dentist. At Peace Haven Family Dentistry, we perform an oral cancer screening as a part of every dental checkup in our Winston Salem office.
A painful tongue can be a result of a variety of issues, including canker sores, lichen planus, geographic tongue, thrush, infection, and medication. Pain in your tongue can also be an indicator of cancer, especially if accompanied by a lump or white or red patches. Please contact your dentist right away if you notice these symptoms.
Does your tongue suddenly feel larger than normal? This can be caused by an underlying condition, such as an infection, allergies or hypothyroidism. Call your dentist to have this issue checked out.
Grooves in Tongue
Grooves, or fissures in the tongue are harmless, though you should brush your tongue gently to remove any trapped bacteria or food particles. This condition can be linked to psoriasis, Down syndrome or Sjögren’s syndrome. Please see your dentist for treatment.
A scalloped, or wavy, tongue can indicate an underlying health condition, such as sleep apnea, a vitamin deficiency, anxiety, and low thyroid or hormone levels. If you notice that your tongue is scalloped around the edges, you may want to consult with your medical doctor to diagnose the health issue.
Your tongue does a whole lot more than taste food and assist in your speaking. Your tongue can serve as a marker for your overall health.