What Your Tongue Says About Your Oral Health

Did you know that your body has its own ways of revealing how well healthy you are? It’s true! If you want an idea of how your oral health is, look no further than your tongue. Generally, if you notice any sudden change in your tongue, it’s best to seek the advice of a professional. But some problems are more common than others. Here’s what your tongue says about your oral health if you look closely enough!

Hairy Tongue

Although there’s no actual hair involved with a hairy tongue, this does mean that you have long bumps on your tongue that somewhat resembles hair. Usually, these bumps will be dark brown or black, but they can also be white. This is often a telltale sign that you need to up your oral hygiene game. Revisit the basics on how to effectively brush, floss, gargle, and clean your tongue to keep your mouth as healthy as possible.

That being said, a hairy tongue can also be no fault of your own. Sometimes people develop a hairy tongue if they’re having an adverse reaction to a medication. Your tongue may also be coated in hair-like bumps if you’re a tobacco user.

Black Tongue

Maybe you don’t see anything on your tongue that resembles hair, but the appearance is darker than normal. Often, the best remedy for this, once again, is to simply improve your oral hygiene habits. If you don’t already have one, invest in a tongue scraper and start using it or at least make sure you brush your tongue with your toothbrush as well. Sometimes, your tongue may also darken if you’ve been drinking a lot of coffee.

Webbed or Striped Pattern

It’s not normal for your tongue to have any kind of pattern such as webs or stripes. If you’ve noticed this and you’re also experiencing a burning or painful sensation or you even have open sores in your mouth, it could be because you have an inflammatory disease called oral lichen planus. While this condition sometimes goes away without treatment, it can also be a sign of something more serious like mouth cancer.

Bumpy Tongue

Another sign of an oral cancer is if you have bumps under your tongue. This can be tricky because sometimes these bumps could merely be canker sores or papillitis which aren’t usually big causes for concern. Usually, these will also resolve on their own in time. But if you’ve had these bumps for a while or you have any other reason you’re concerned about your oral health, you should get screened for cancer.

Whiteout in the Mouth

If you’ve noticed white spots emerging on any part of your mouth (including your cheeks and your tongue), this could be another early sign of cancer. It’s especially common among smokers and other types of tobacco users. If you’ve noticed white spots, don’t panic as cancer is not the only explanation. Often, the cause is something much more minor like a yeast infection called oral thrush. If you’re diabetic, you are even more likely to have oral thrush. Children and the elderly are also at an increased risk for the condition.

There may also be one other explanation for a white and patchy tongue: COVID. One study in Spain revealed that about one-fourth of hospitalized COVID patients experienced changes to their tongues, most notably white patches. That being said, it’s not clear if COVID actually causes this change or if it’s just a side-effect of fighting illness.

Grooves in Your Tongue

It’s important to remember to brush not just your teeth but your tongue too, especially if you have grooves in your tongue. Otherwise, you could end up with food particles and bacteria trapped in these ridges. While sometimes this is the extent of the problem, grooves can also be a telltale sign of oral psoriasis. A fissured tongue has also been linked to Sjogren’s syndrome, which is a condition where your body’s immune system attacks your healthy cells that are responsible for producing saliva and tears. This syndrome often occurs with other autoimmune disorders like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Excessive Dryness

Your tongue should stay hydrated. If it’s feeling dry, you might want to increase your water intake. After all, if your tongue is dry, it may be because your mouth is not producing the proper amount of saliva to protect your teeth. This can lead to cavities. A dry tongue may also be a sign of an autoimmune disease.

Bruised Appearance

If your tongue almost looks bruised due to blueish purple spots, this could also be a cause for concern. It may be caused by bacteria buildup and motivate you to do a little more scraping during your nighttime routine. If the color does not clear up in about 14 days, you should go to the doctor as, just like with many changes to your tongue, it could be a sign of oral cancer.

Enlarged Tongue

If your tongue looks larger and more inflamed than usual, it could be a sign of a condition called glossitis. If your glossitis is really bad, it could lead to pain while you eat or even speak. Sometimes glossitis may arise if you’ve cut or burned your mouth or if you have braces. It may also be a sign of an iron deficiency or an allergy. No matter the cause, there are treatment options such as medications and avoiding certain foods.

Get to the Bottom of What Your Tongue Says About Your Oral Health with Swedish Dental

Make sure you’re examining your tongue regularly so you notice quickly if any of these issues develop. While what your tongue says about your oral health is important, it can only reveal so much. That’s why it’s so important to stay current on your dental exams. If you’ve noticed any of these issues with your own tongue or you just know it’s time to get checked out, book an appointment with Swedish Dental today!