Sure, your tongue helps with important actions like talking and eating, but most people don’t pay much attention to it unless they accidentally chomp down in the wrong spot. The condition of your tongue actually speaks volumes – here’s what it’s trying to say:
- Tongues are a bit bumpy by nature. Those bumps – also known as filiform papillae – occasionally become inflamed, making them sore and red. Much like canker sores, these occurrences are annoying but completely normal. Your only cause for concern is if the inflammation lingers for more than a couple of weeks. That could be a sign of a more serious condition ranging from an infection to a precancerous sore. Consult your dentist immediately.
- The filiform papillae on your tongue may sometimes grow longer and collect bacteria, mouth debris, or staining from food and drinks, medications, or smoking. When this occurs, instead of the normal overall pink color, your tongue color may range from white, to yellow, to brown, or even black depending on what is causing the stain. Certain conditions ranging from the relatively common and benign “geographic tongue” to a more serious hairy leukoplakia may appear as patches or white or red. See your doctor to get a diagnosis and guidance on any necessary treatment and you should be back to pink in no time.
- A smooth, extremely light-colored tongue might signal an iron deficiency. A shortage of iron in the diet can result in a lack of oxygen in the blood, which means tissues such as the tongue end up looking pale. The good news: once you get your iron intake properly balanced again, your tongue will bounce back.
- Your tongue papillae can harbor millions of bacteria and debris that may contribute to bad breath. Brush or scrape your tongue each day to keep it clean. If you are a faithful brusher and tongue scraper, but no matter how many times you scrape, brush or swish mouthwash, your bad breath just refuses to go away, consult your dentist.Persistent stinky breath could simply be caused by diet or medications you might be taking, or it could be the sign of anything from chronic bronchitis to liver or kidney problems.
So you see, your tongue is silently communicating by sending important messages to your physician or dentist through signs and symptoms of many other diseases or conditions that may reveal themselves on its bumpy pink surface. Always check with your dentist or physician if you notice something out of the ordinary on your tongue that persists for more than a couple of weeks.