Your Health and the Color of Your Tongue

Health and tongue color

Your tongue can tell you a lot about your health. A healthy tongue is usually pink with a thin whitish coating. There should be no cracks or ulcers on the surface and its size should be of medium thickness. The tongue also contains small nodules that may feel slightly fuzzy. These are known as papillae and are essentially hairs that form between the taste buds. If you notice your tongue is an unusual color or has a weird texture or odor, something may be amiss with your health. Here are just a few things that your tongue might be trying to tell you.

White Tongue

It’s normal for your tongue to appear with a thin white covering, usually towards the center. This can occur if you fail to brush or floss correctly, experience dry mouth, are dehydrated, consume alcohol regularly, use tobacco products, or do not clean your tongue.

While practicing good oral health can minimize the whiteness, having some white on your tongue is usually harmless. However, when the white areas are highly pronounced or appear with other symptoms, it may indicate thrush. Thrush is a fungal infection that can develop after a medication or illness that throws off the balance of bacteria in the mouth.

If the white patches appear lacy, you may have lichen planus. This is an inflammatory condition that occurs when the immune system attacks the tissues in the mouth. You may notice flat, hard, white areas that cannot be scraped away. Leukoplakia is another condition that can cause thick, white patches to form on the tongue. As leukoplakia can sometimes develop into cancer, it is important to have it examined by a doctor.

Red Tongue

While a healthy tongue can appear in various shades of pink, it should never be red. A red tongue could indicate an infectious or inflammatory disease. Glossitis is an inflammation of the tongue that can cause it to swell, change color, and develop an odd surface texture. This condition is most often caused when bacteria enters a cut on the tongue, resulting in an infection.

If the tongue appears bright red, a blood disease or heart disorder may be to blame. Bright red tongues can also appear with toxic shock syndrome, vitamin B12 deficiencies, and strep throat. While rare, a bright red tongue can also be a sign of scarlet fever. This is a bacterial illness that develops in some people with strep throat.

Black Tongue

It can be alarming to open your mouth and see a black tongue. You may also notice your black tongue is slightly hairy. This is a condition known as “black hairy tongue” but the hair-like projections are not actually hair. Black hairy tongue can occur when the long papillae are stained by bacteria and other substances, giving the tongue a black, furry appearance.

A black tongue can develop when the tongue stops shedding dead skin cells. This may occur due to poor oral hygiene habits, a liquid diet, or low saliva production. It is also a side effect of certain medications. A black tongue can usually be remedied by improving your oral health. Brush your tongue, use a tongue scrapper, and brush after eating.

Other Tongue Colors

Your tongue can also turn other colors due to certain health conditions. For example, yellow discoloration could be a sign of jaundice. Jaundice is a buildup of bilirubin in the blood often associated with liver dysfunction. A purple tongue could indicate blood stasis. If your body is not effectively pumping blood, it can impact blood flow causing a purplish tint on the tongue.

When the tongue turns blue, cyanosis should be considered. Cyanosis occurs as a result of poor circulation or insufficient oxygenation of the blood. A grey tongue can develop due to intestinal or digestive problems. As bacteria builds up in the mouth due to digestive issues, it can create a greyish coating on the tongue.

Speak with Your Dentist

The color of your tongue can give you clues about your health. With help from your dentist in our Largo FL office, you can pinpoint the cause of your discolored tongue and achieve better dental health and wellness. Contact Bonham Dental Arts today to schedule an appointment.