Does your tongue look whitish, feel rough, or are you feeling pain in your tongue? While these symptoms can be normal and harmless, they can sometimes signal a hidden health issue. The tongue and oral health, after all, are closely related to each other. Infections, ageing, medications, stress, and other issues often mark their presence on your tongue. Here’s how you can find out what your tongue is telling you about your health.
Many people in Canada often find their tongues covered in white patches or spots. These spots can indicate one of the three issues: oral thrush, leukoplakia, and oral lichen planus. What are they, and what should you do about them? Here’s the answer.
Oral thrush is a yeast infection that develops inside the mouth, mostly on the tongue, and it appears as white patches. An easy way to tell apart oral thrush from leukoplakia and oral lichen planus is by seeing if they can be scraped away or have the consistency of cottage cheese. Mostly, infants or the elderly suffer from this infection, but those with weakened immune systems, diabetes, or inhaled steroid users are also vulnerable to it. While it is not a severe condition, you should still get it checked by your dentist.
Another common condition that affects the tongue and oral health is leukoplakia, where it turns the tongue white (that cannot be scraped off). It is a condition where cells grow excessively, leading to white patches on the tongue and inside of the mouth. They develop when the tongue is irritated and is often seen in tobacco users. It is generally considered to be a precursor to cancer but isn’t inherently dangerous by itself. You need to contact your dentist at the earliest if you notice this.
Oral Lichen Planus
The third condition that appears as white patches on the tongue is oral lichen planus. It is a network of raised white lines that appear on your tongue that resemble laces. So far, dentists don’t really know what causes it, but it usually gets resolved on its own, so it is not a significant cause of concern.
On the flip side, if your tongue appears to be darker than usual or has red spots on it, it can be a sign of vitamin deficiency, geographic tongue, scarlet fever, or Kawasaki disease. Here’s more about them.
The most common reason for a redder tongue is a deficiency of folic acid or vitamin B-12. If you have a history of vitamin deficiency or suspect that your tongue is redder than usual because of this, you should contact your dentist. Usually, a simple blood test is carried out to check for vitamin deficiency in your body.
If you notice reddish spots on your tongue with white borders that resemble a map, you will likely suffer from geographic tongue. The spots may shift over time. Yes, this condition sounds scary, but it is usually harmless in most cases. Still, it is recommended that you visit a dentist to treat it at the earliest.
If you have a high fever and your tongue appears to have a strawberry-like appearance, it is a sign of scarlet fever. It is most common in kids from five to fifteen years of age. If you suspect you’re suffering from scarlet fever, you need to contact your family doctor.
Lastly, Kawasaki disease is also notorious for making your tongue appear redder than usual. The disease causes swelling of the blood vessels throughout the body and is usually accompanied by high fever. This is a serious condition, and we recommend that you book a medical evaluation immediately to avoid any further complications.
Black or Hairy Patches on Tongue
Your tongue has a ton of papillae on the surface that grow throughout your life. However, sometimes, bacteria get accumulated in the papillae and grow exponentially, turning the tongue black. This leads to the tongue appearing like it has turned black with hair growing on the surface. We know this sounds gross, but it is not a serious condition. It mostly occurs in people who don’t practice good oral hygiene, have diabetes, take antibiotics, or undergo chemotherapy.
Cracked Tongue With No Pain
A common tongue condition that unnecessarily scares people is the cracking of the tongue. It is a benign condition that causes fissures to develop on the tongue’s surface and is usually painless. If you notice such grooves on your tongue, you need to focus more on your oral hygiene and consult with your dentist to solve it at the earliest.
Sore or Bumpy Tongue
If painful bumps appear on your tongue or the tongue hurts a lot, it is most likely due to trauma to the tongue tissue. Such trauma is usually caused by accidentally biting the tongue or scalding it with hot food straight out of the oven. Smoking, too, can cause a sore or bumpy tongue for many. However, if you don’t smoke and haven’t accidentally bitten your tongue in a long time, it can also be due to teeth grinding or clenching. In such a case, you must consult with your dentist and see if a mouthguard would benefit you. Grinding and clenching teeth is bad for both your tongue and oral health as it can cause bleeding gums, enamel erosion, cracking or fractures in the teeth, and even TMJ.
Your tongue and oral health are just as important as your overall health, and you need to focus on it. Most of the issues can be avoided by practising good oral hygiene, but they can sometimes not be avoidable. If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, book an appointment with 67th Street Dental Clinic, and our dentist will provide you with the most appropriate solutions to treat your condition.