Your tongue can be a good indicator about your oral health in general. If you feel any pain, discomfort or if you actually notice some change in the color of your tongue you may actually suffering certain condition and you are not even aware of it. Here are the several most common changes of the tongue.
1. Red tongue
If your tongue is rosy it is because you have a sore throat. But, a red tongue could be caused by atrophic glossitis (a.k.a. lost taste buds) due to a vitamin deficiency in folic acid, B12 or iron. If that is the case, then your doctor would suggest you taking supplements that contain those particular nutrients. But, another situation for redness of your tongue can be dry mouth. The tongue can feel sensitive and tender. In this cases you can take over-the-counter product for saliva replacement, sipping on water often, and using sugar-free lozenges.
Toward the back of your tongue there are taste buds that are bumpier and larger than the ones that hang out in front, and they’re not usually a cause for concern. The bumps sometimes can get bigger, usually when you eat hot food. Other common causes of bumps include canker sores and herpes both of which go away on their own but can be treated to speed healing and ease discomfort. For canker sores, you can use an over-the-counter ointment, avoid spicy and acidic foods, and gargle with baking soda and water. For herpes, a prescription anti-viral pill is needed. If you are scared that you might not notice this, don’t worry – your dentists would notice everything and if something is wrong with your tongue they would inform you.
Having a tongue with white and pink spots (often called ‘geographic tongue’) isn’t a thing to worry about, because many people have it and it is natural. There are areas on your tongue where some taste buds have been worn down. There’s no treatment for it, and it’s actually pretty common. Some medical research has shown an association between geographic tongue and celiac disease, a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the small intestine when it ingests gluten—a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley.
4. White Patches
White tongue isn’t a ‘red alert’ for your health, and in fact may be bad hygiene of your mouth (nothing that a good tooth brush or tongue cleaner won’t help). But, if it lingers, it might be an overgrowth of candida (yeast or thrush). You’re at a higher risk of developing this condition if you’re on antibiotics, have diabetes, are on chemotherapy, inhale steroids to treat asthma, or have a compromised immune system. Candida is usually very treatable with an anti-fungal swish-and-spit liquid or pill. White patches could also be a sign of leukoplakia, which is often caused by tobacco or chronic alcohol use. Oral cancer can sometimes develop on or near these patches.
5. Ridges or Indentations
Most people have ridges on their tongues and it may simply be due to the way their teeth press into their tongues (you have probably notices this in the morning, because the mouth is inactive while you sleep). Another reason you might also see ridges if you have a fissured tongue which is a long crack down the middle of the tongue, and it’s just something you’re born with.
6. Black and Hairy
Looking Even though it sounds disgusting and scary, calm down. If you actually have this condition or someone you know has it, it isn’t dangerous because this alarming-looking condition is actually benign. It’s sometimes associated with antibiotic use, a yeast infection, diabetes, cancer therapies, or poor oral hygiene. It happens when “the cells on your tongue grow faster than your body can shed them. But rest assured that this condition generally goes away on its own. Your doctor would explain to you that there is no actual hair on your tongue, it just looks like that.
7. Striped Look
This could signal of a chronic condition called oral lichen planus, which occurs when the immune system attacks cells in the mouth. Middle-aged women are most commonly affected. Usually, when the patient doesn’t feel any pain the doctor probably won’t treat it, but would probably monitor your symptoms, because you might be at higher risk of developing oral cancer in those areas. In case of pain, the doctor subscribes drugs such as a corticosteroid, a retinoid, or an immunosuppressant.