Did you know that your tongue can tell dentists a great deal about your dental and overall health? Most of us just take our tongue for granted, but it’s a very useful muscle. Your tongue allows you to speak clearly and is covered in taste buds so you can taste your food properly. It also helps shape food into a bolus so you can swallow it. Listed below are some of the problems that can affect your tongue.
Excessively Red Tongue
Normally your tongue should be a healthy pink colour, but if you notice it looks rather red, you may want to review your diet. A red tongue can indicate you are deficient in important vitamins like vitamin B12 and folic acid. Before you reach for the supplements, it’s always a good idea to speak to your GP to ensure the supplements are appropriate for your needs.
Have you noticed your tongue feels extra sensitive or sore? You could be developing a food allergy, so it’s worth considering if you have eaten anything different recently that could trigger this response. Otherwise, a sore tongue could mean you are developing a mouth ulcer. Usually, mouth ulcers will clear up without treatment within a week or two. However, if you have a persistent mouth ulcer or sore that isn’t healing properly, you should always make an appointment to come and see us. We can check the sore to ensure it is not a sign of anything serious and might be able to prescribe medication to help it clear up more quickly or recommend other treatments.
If your tongue is irritated, it can develop white patches instead of looking a nice, even pink colour. These patches are called leukoplakia and are common amongst smokers. They can develop on the surface of the tongue and underneath the tongue, and if you notice these changes, it’s worth talking to us, as sometimes leukoplakia can be a precursor for cancer. Our dentist can assess your tongue and recommend treatments to try and prevent these white patches from worsening. If you smoke, we recommend you quit. Other possible treatments include retinoids, oral supplements, and increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables. Sometimes the white patches are removed using laser therapy or other surgical treatments.
With hairy tongue, your tongue will look as if it is covered in dark fur. Your tongue won’t actually sprout hair, but a buildup of dead skin cells can make it appear hairy and trap food, bacteria, yeast and other substances. A hairy tongue may indicate that you need to review your oral care routine. If your tongue does start to look a little hairy, try purchasing a tongue scraper or brush your tongue every day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and be sure to floss every day. Hairy tongue is usually a harmless and temporary condition, but make an appointment to come and see us if it persists despite improved oral care.