The focus of oral health is almost always on the teeth and immediate surrounding tissues. But did you know your tongue can be an area of concern if not checked routinely? The tongue plays a vital role in speaking and eating properly. It can also provide clues to you and your dentist about your overall health.
Common Tongue Issues
Our tongue when healthy is a rosy shade of pink. If you notice a white coating developing on parts of your tongue this can be a sign of oral thrush. Oral thrush (most commonly caused by the fungus candida albicans) is a yeast infection. A good check at home is to brush your tongue if the white coating wipes off easily, it is not oral thrush. If it does not wipe off see your dentist, so that they can prescribe the proper medication to handle this issue. The presence of oral thrush can mean an underlying medical diagnosis so a follow up to your physician should be in order as well. This can include diabetes and malnutrition.
Presence Of White Patches on Tongue.
When the tongue tissues have been irritated by smoking or tobacco use a condition called Leukoplakia can develop. Most leukoplakia patches are non cancerous but some are cancerous. If you notice these white patches see your dentist immediately to rule out the possibility of oral cancer. Generally, stopping what is irritating the tongue tissues will allow the issue to resolve.
Bright, Red Tongue.
This is generally due to a vitamin deficiency. The usual suspects are B-12 or folic acid. Easy solution is to add foods that contain these vitamin’s to your diet. Another possibility is Kawasaki disease. This disease is a condition that causes inflammation in the walls of some blood vessels in the body. It is usually very treatable and can resolve in days or weeks.
Irregular, Red Bumpy Patches.
If your tongue has these bumpy patches it could lead to a diagnosis of Geographic tongue (also called benign migratory glossitis). Geopgraphic tongue is an inflammatory disorder that generally appears on the top and sides of the tongue. Generally, affected tongues have a bald, red area of differing sizes that is usually surrounded by an irregular white border. These patches often heal and move locations on the tongue before clearing up on their own. Pain relievers and rinses might be used in rare instances to help alleviate symptoms.
Tender, Sore Tongue.
If your tongue is overly sensitive in one spot or all over, you could have a food allergy or a developing canker sore. If the sensitivity persists see your dentist for an evaluation to rule out anything more sinister.
This tongue condition is an unusual, harmless condition characterized by a “hairy” enlargement and discoloration of the filiform papillae. The filiform papillae are tiny conical bumps found on the surface of the front two-thirds of the tongue that do not carry taste buds. Symptoms include discoloration of the tongue, a furry or hairy appearance of the tongue, bad breath, and a metallic taste in the mouth. Hairy tongue treatment involves brushing the tongue regularly with a toothbrush and avoiding tobacco use.
Tongue Health Conclusion
Your tongue and oral cavity in general is a window into your overall health. If you notice any changes to your tongue or your oral health overall see your dentist for an evaluation. Your dentist can be your first line of defense in diagnosing a systemic disease.
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