What Does Your Tongue Say About Your Overall Health?

What Does Your Tongue Say About Your Overall Health?

In most cases, patches, bumps, and spots on your tongue are harmless. However, conditions like infections, medication issues, stress, and even aging can leave marks on your tongue and give clues about your overall health.

Here are the 11 most common tongue issues and their treatment options.

1. Thrush

White Patches Causes Symptoms Treatment

Image Credit: WebMD

Creamy white spots on your tongue are often called thrush. It is a fungal infection that usually appears when certain medications or illnesses disturb the natural balance of bacteria present in your mouth. In most cases, it will go away on its own and does not require any medication. However, in people with a weakened immune system, the signs and symptoms may be more severe and may require anti-thrush medications, such as miconazole or nystatin, in the form of gel, drops, or lozenges.

2. Hairy Tongue

Image Credit: WebMD

Hairy tongue is caused by excessive yeast or bacteria growth in the mouth. Bacteria grow on tiny rounded projections on the surface of the tongue called papillae (taste buds). Instead of regularly shedding, when these papillae start to grow due to bacteria or yeast, they create hair-like projections on your tongue. Usually, these should disappear when you scrape or brush your tongue. Your dentist might prescribe topical medications, such as tretinoin, if the problem doesn't get better on its own.

3. Black Tongue

Image Credit: WebMD

Sometimes, your tongue can go black after you take an antacid that contains bismuth. For some people, this ingredient stains their tongue black when it gets mixed with the saliva in their mouth. This condition is harmless and disappears as soon as you stop taking the medicine.

4. Bright Red Tongue

A strawberry-red tongue can be an early sign of Kawasaki disease. It is a rare, serious illness, often seen in children, that inflames blood vessels throughout the body. It can also be a symptom of scarlet fever. In cases where your tongue is red, painful, and swollen, you might be having a vitamin B3 deficiency. Treatment of strawberry tongue requires identifying the underlying cause of the symptom and treating it.

Image Credit: WebMD

5. Burning Feeling in the Tongue

If your tongue gives you a burning feeling and tastes bitter or metallic, you might be suffering from burning mouth syndrome. This means you have problems with the nerves in your tongue. Some other health problems which can cause a burning feeling in the tongue are dry mouth, acid reflux, infections, and diabetes. For certain people, acidic foods such as pineapple as well as specific mouthwash, toothpaste, candy, and gum can also cause their tongue to burn.

Image Credit: WebMD

Even though there is no known cure specifically for burning tongue, there are ways to relieve and control your symptoms. For example, you may gain some relief by avoiding substances that irritate your tongue, such as mint or cinnamon products, alcohol-based mouthwashes, and cigarette smoke.

6. Smooth Tongue

Smooth tongue happens when the papillae (normal bumps seen on the tongue) are no longer visible. The use of dentures is a common cause of a smooth tongue. You may also get it due to deficiency in iron, folic acid, or B vitamins. Apart from that, certain infections, some medications, and celiac disease can also be the cause of it. Treatment of a smooth tongue depends on its cause. Your dentist may prescribe anti-fungal or anti-viral antibiotics depending upon the infection or disease.

Image Credit: WebMD

7. Bumps on Tongue

Bumps on the tongue can be formed due to various reasons. The little red or white bumps that form when papillae become irritated and mildly swollen are called lie bumps. These bumps are not severe and usually go away on their own without any treatment. Small, reddish, painful bumps that often form under the tongue and come and go on their own are commonly called canker sores. They are not contagious, and over the counter medications can help in easing the pain associated with them. Make sure to consult your dentist if you have bumps on the tongue which do not go away because they might indicate oral cancer.

Image Credit: WebMD

Related Article: Bad Breath: What Causes It and How You Can Prevent It

8. Sore Tongue

Biting or injuring your tongue can be very painful because the tongue has many nerve endings. Apart from that, lichen planus, canker sores, infections, some medications, and geographic tongue can also make your tongue sore and painful. Be aware that painful lumps or red/white patches on your tongue can be a sign of oral cancer. Immediately contact your dentist in such cases.

Image Credit: WebMD

9. Macroglossia

Macroglossia is a condition where your tongue is larger than normal that your doctor can find your teeth imprints on its sides. Underlying causes for macroglossia may be an infection, hypothyroidism, or allergies. In mild cases of macroglossia, treatment includes speech therapy to improve the speaking capability of the patient. However, in very severe cases, the surgical reduction of the tongue may be necessary.

Image Credit: WebMD

10. Fissured Tongue

As you age, deep grooves may form on your tongue. These grooves may be due to other medical conditions such as psoriasis, down syndrome, or Sjögren's syndrome. No treatment is required for this condition other than practicing good oral hygiene and brushing the top surface of the tongue carefully to remove any food particles trapped in the fissures.

Image Credit: WebMD

11. Mouth Cancer

Although most bumps, spots, and color variations observed on your tongue are harmless, make sure to consult your dentist if you come across symptoms like lumps, sores that don’t heal, tongue pain, and trouble swallowing or chewing. This is extremely important, especially if these symptoms persist for more than two weeks. Your dentist will help you identify signs of mouth cancer in its beginning stage when cancer treatment is more effective.

Image Credit: WebMD

If you are looking for a trusted and experienced family dentist in Ames, IA, contact us. Our Ames dentist will help you identify the early symptoms of oral problems and provide the right treatment for them.

Related Article: Dental Plaque: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment Options


Campustown Dental

Campustown Dental, located in Ames, Iowa is a family dental care center committed to restoring and enhancing the healthy smile of you and your family. Our highly skilled dental team is dedicated to delivering the most comprehensive and affordable dental care accessible in the most comfortable surroundings.

Comments are closed