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Things Your Tongue Can Reveal About Your Overall Health

Close-up woman's tongueThere are a number of conditions that can manifest on your tongue. This is why it’s important to make sure that you view your tongue in the mirror frequently to check for the signs of a problem or make an appointment if you experience tongue pain.

Tongue Problems & What They Can Mean

Below are a few common tongue issues and what they might mean for your overall health:

  • Strawberry red tongue – If your tongue appears bright red and glossy, it might be a sign that you’re lacking vitamin B12 or iron. Vegetarians are especially prone to vitamin B12 deficiencies. If you notice that your tongue is red and smooth, you should ask your doctor about taking vitamin supplements.  
  • Black or brown fuzz – The appearance of what looks like black or brown hair or fuzz on the tongue may be an indicator that you need to pay more attention to your oral hygiene. ‘Black and hairy tongue,’ the official name for the diagnosis, does not cause for too much concern and can be brought on but smoking, drinking coffee, and bad oral hygiene. Brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper, as this may be all you need to do.
  • Wrinkles – Fissures, cracks, or wrinkles in the tongue are usually harmless, but if you don’t practice good oral hygiene, problems may arise. Food buildup can lead to a deep fungal infection inside the crevices of the tongue, leading to bigger issues.
  • White patches – Painless white patches are caused by excessive growth of cells. These patches are usually associated with tobacco smoking and have a 5-15% chance of developing into cancer. If you don’t smoke, these patches may be the result of the tongue rubbing against the teeth, but get the patches checked out if they last longer than a week or two.
  • Cottage cheese texture – If your tongue is coated in a white, lumpy substance, you may be suffering from an oral yeast infection called thrush. Thrush is common in small children, people with diabetes, those with autoimmune disorders, chemotherapy patients, and the elderly. If you have thrush, you need to visit your doctor.
  • Burning sensation – Burning tongue syndrome is what happens when an individual’s tongue stings and burns but looks perfectly normal. Because women are up to 7 times more likely to experience burning tongue syndrome than men, it may be attributed to hormonal changes.
  • Red lesions – Unlike canker sores, which typically resolve themselves after two weeks, red lesions or patches that don’t resolve themselves can be more serious. While typically attributed to tobacco use, oral cancer can also be caused by the virus that causes HPV. Get it checked out whether it is painful or not.

If you’re concerned about tongue or gum tissue problems in your mouth, please make an appointment. To visit our Portsmouth, New Hampshire periodontics office, please contact Coastal Periodontics today.

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