What Your Tongue Says About Your Oral Health

You expect your dentist to examine your gums and teeth, but did you know they’re also taking a look at your tongue? In fact, the colour and texture of tongues can give some big clues to your overall oral health. While we all want to have healthy tongues, it’s important to take note of any of these unusual symptoms as they can be your first sign that something is askew.

Have a read through the various appearances of a tongue and book an appointment with our Tauranga dentists at Duncan Dental if you notice any of these signs yourself.

A healthy tongue

First, let’s start off with a description of what you’re hoping to see when you stick your tongue out and look in the mirror. If your tongue looks pink and is covered in tiny little dots (which your dentist calls papaillae), things are looking good! These are the signs of a healthy tongue, which is a good reflection of a healthy mouth.

White or yellow coating

On the other hand, if your normally pink tongue is coated in white patches or spots, your dentist might want to take a closer look. This could be oral thrush, a yeast infection that occurs inside the mouth. Thrush is more common in really young and really old patients, people with compromised immune systems or following antibiotic use. It’s usually an easy fix and some mouth gel will often do the trick.

Yellow coating on your tongue is not usually overly concerning, and might be a side effect of tobacco, coffee, tea, or a bacteria build up. Making sure you rinse your mouth with water after drinking caffeine can help, as can using a tongue scraper during your twice daily tooth brushing sessions.

A red tongue

A very red-looking tongue could indicate a few concerns, including an iron or B vitamin deficiency such as B12 and folic acid, which aren’t uncommon. It could also point to an allergy to a certain food or medication, or could be a symptom of strep throat.

Once diagnosed through a blood test or swab, these concerns are remedied with nutrient supplements, avoiding the offensive ingredient, or talking to your doctor about medication.

A hairy or fuzzy tongue

If a dentist notices that your tongue appears to be “hairy”, they might give you some pointers on improving your oral hygiene practices, or it could be a reaction to medication. If you notice a hairy tongue at home, it’s worth a trip to your dentist to figure out the cause.  

Glossy or smooth tongues

While this doesn’t sound nearly as uncomfortable as a hairy tongue, the reality is your tongue should not be glossy. It should be covered in tiny dots and have a slightly rough texture. These symptoms might be pointing towards a nutrient deficiency, especially a B vitamin or iron, an infection, or undiagnosed Coeliac’s Disease.

Have a look in the mirror when you’re brushing your teeth tonight. And if you notice anything unusual with your tongue, book an appointment with Tauranga’s leading dental team at Duncan Dental.

September 8, 2021

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