Mind Your Tongue

a mother and daughter sticking out their tongueWe’ve long emphasized the link between oral health and overall health. Today we want to look at a specific aspect of oral health – your tongue, and what it can tell you about the rest of your body.

There are three primary things you need to pay attention to with your tongue:

  • Tongue Coating
  • Tongue Color
  • Tongue Texture

Tongue Coating

Everyone’s tongue has a coating. This coating usually appears in the middle or back of the tongue and gives us an indication of how well we are metabolizing our foods. A thin, light, and whitish tongue coating indicates a healthy digestive system.

If you notice a thick tongue coat, possible yellow or white, then your body is trying to tell you something. There could be an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast, and you need to improve your diet as well as eating less to improve gut function.

If no tongue coating is present at all, then your body is displaying symptoms of exhaustion, one of which is dehydration.

Tongue Color

The ideal tongue color is pink, but there are other colors your tongue could be that hint of poor health.

  • Black/Brown – If your tongue is black/brown or looks “hairy,” that is a sign of a bacterial or fungal infection.
  • Pale – Blood counts may be low.
  • Purple/Blue – Fluids and blood may not be circulating properly.
  • Red – Several things that could be at play. These include scarlet fever, Kawasaki disease (for children), and vitamin deficiency.
  • White – A white coating or spots could be caused by leukoplakia (an overgrowth of cells), oral thrush (yeast infection), or oral lichen planus (inflammatory disease).
  • Yellow – This color is a sign of trapped bacteria.

Tongue Texture

Your tongue’s texture can also provide hints about overall health. Be on the lookout for:

  • Dry – This could be something as simple as stress, or if the dryness is persistent, something more serious such as Sjorgren’s syndrome.
  • Smooth – Your tongue should be textured. If it’s smooth, there could be a nutritional deficiency.
  • Sore – Sores or bumps that don’t go away can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, leuokoplakia, or even cancer.
  • Wrinkled – Deep grooves in your tongue that give the appearance of wrinkles are typically harmless and a sign of aging.

If you notice any of these issues with your tongue, or have any other oral health questions, be sure to give Susquehanna Dental Arts a call at 717-285-7033 so we can determine the cause and get you back to normal as soon as possible.