We all like looking at our teeth after we brush them. They are so nice and shiny and white, aren’t they? People will be dazzled when they look at them. But we tend to forget what is behind those pearly whites – your tongue. There are things that happen to it that can indicate problems with your oral health… or it could be something that will go away after a while. Don’t panic… read on.
Whatever you do, once you spot the change on your tongue, contact your dentist to make an appointment. You can do some research in the interim, but whatever you read, even if it says that it’s likely not a problem, keep the appointment.
Here are some ways that your tongue can change and some answers to your question: “Should my tongue look like this?”
There is White Stuff On My Tongue
What does a normal tongue look like? A healthy color, like your gums, is pink. There are tiny nodules, known as papillae one both the bottom and the top of it. Every time you brush your teeth, check the color of your tongue. If it’s changed, then you need to look closer. Like if you look and see that the surface of the tongue, which used to be pink, is now covered with white.
A good portion of the time, this is nothing to worry about and will likely fade away. Other times do need some medical intervention.
- Leukoplakia – This is one that you really need to watch out for. If you spot white patches on both your mouth and tongue and they are pretty thick, then see your dentist. This could be a precursor to oral cancer.
- Oral Lichen Planus – Does your tongue look like it is covered with lines of white lace? This is not your mouth trying to fancy itself up – it’s oral lichen planus. Fortunately, it tends to go away on its own.
- Thrush – Your mouth may look like there are patches of white cottage cheeses in it. That’s disconcerting if you didn’t eat any of that recently. This is oral thrush and it’s something that tends to happen to many different age groups along with asthmatics, diabetics, denture-wearers, and COPD patients. Even infants can get it. Eating unsweetened yogurt can help or you may need an anti-fungal medication.
My Tongue Looks Red
There may be some times when your tongue turns red, like a strawberry, or it may even look purple. Generally, it resolves itself, but you may need to take some extra steps.
- B Vitamin Deficiencies – Are you eating properly? Do you take vitamin supplements? A red tongue may point to a deficiency in either area. It’s an easy fix though – go to your local store and get some folic acid and B-12. You can also order them online. That will get you back on track.
- Geographic Tongue – When you open your mouth and look at your tongue, does it resemble a map – with white and red patches playing the role of countries on the map. You have geographic tongue. It’s harmless though the patches may move around your mouth much like the countries did all over the Earth over the course of millions of years.
- Kawasaki Disease – This is usually something that children under the age of five get, but people of any age can get it. One of the first symptoms is a red tongue – and it’s important to see a doctor about it since it can lead to possible heart complications down the road.
- Scarlet Fever – If you have strep throat, this is also a possibility. You will likely spot a rash that’s spread out across your body and also a red tongue. If you don’t see a doctor, it can have a lot of nasty complications, including kidney problems and hearing loss.
My Tongue Looks Black
No, that’s not actual hair that you see in your mouth. It’s really the aforementioned papillae, which have multiplied. It can seem shocking to look out, but there are several very reasonable possibilities for this.
- You are very erratic with your brushing and flossing
- You are taking an antibiotic and this is one of the known side effects.
- You have diabetes.
- You are undergoing chemotherapy.
There may be times that you tongue hurts or that you feel some bumps on it. There are several possibilities for this.
- Canker Sores – People usually get these mouth ulcers when they are extremely stressed – though the exact cause is unknown. There are plenty of medications on the market for it.
- Certain Medical Conditions – Diabetics and people with anemia can get these.
- Burning Tongue Syndrome – Postmenopausal women get this, it may feel like their tongue has been burned.
- Smoking – Adding irritation of the tongue as yet another reason why this is a horrible habit.
- Mouth Trauma – Did you bite your tongue or scald it with hot food? That explains the tongue pain. If you grind your teeth, you can also affect the edges of your tongue.
Don’t try to ignore these symptoms. The best thing you can do is see a dentist and they can make the official diagnosis, which will often put your mind at ease. Go at the immediate onset so that if it turns out to be something like cancer, it will most likely be caught quite early. You really don’t want to take chances with your tongue.
Dr. Robert M. Trager
Building 14 West Wing,
Jamaica, NY 11430