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What Does Your Tongue Say About Your Health?

As well as being a vital organ for talking and eating, the tongue can also be an indicator of our overall health and wellbeing. Here are some common conditions that can manifest in the tongue.

Furry tongue

A whitish, or grayish, and fuzzy-looking tongue can be a sign that you have a build-up of bacteria in the mouth, and these can in turn cause an unpleasant taste in the mouth, bad breath, and infections of the mouth and throat. A furry tongue is relatively easy to treat – simply pay closer attention to your oral hygiene by brushing not only your teeth properly, but also your tongue to remove any bacterial residues. You can also buy special tongue-scraping devices. If the furry tongue persists or becomes very unpleasant, visit your dentist for some specialist advice.

Oral ulcers

Oral ulcers appear as whitish lumps or blisters on the tongue, or inside of the mouth, which are usually no more than a few millimeters in diameter. They can be sore and painful, especially if they get quite large, or if they get in the way of your teeth when chewing food! Oral ulcers are fairly common in people who wear braces because the rubbing action of the braces against the tongue or skin can cause inflamation or infection. Oral ulcers can also be a common indicator of a weakened immune system, usually due to stress, or coming down with a cold or other minor illness.

The soreness of mouth ulcers can be treated with a painkilling gel, but the ulcers themselves will usually disappear on their own after a few days. If they increase in number, get bigger and more painful, or do not disappear within a few weeks, you should visit your doctor or dentist for an oral health check.

Colored tongue

Of course, licking a bright orange lollipop or drinking a blue drink can sometimes turn your tongue an unusual color, while smoking or chewing tobacco can also make the tongue appear yellow or brownish in color. Generally speaking however, the tongue should usually be a nice healthy pink color, with no spots or lumps. The tongue has a rich blood supply, so a pale-colored tongue can be a sign of anemia, which is where the body has too little iron to make the blood red. This in turn can cause fatigue, weakness, and a general feeling of being run-down. Anemia should be diagnosed by a doctor, but is usually easy to treat with dietary modifications and medications.

Having a white tongue can be a sign of some common infections, for example oral thrush, which is caused by a yeast infection of the tongue or mouth. Again, this is easily treated with medications, but you should consult your doctor or dentist for a professional opinion.

Lumps and bumps

More rarely, lumps and bumps on the tongue can indicate something more serious such as oral cancer. If you have any unusual swellings on your tongue or inside your mouth, or if you tongue is cracked, dry, or bleeds, you should make an appointment with your physician to check out what’s going on. Oral cancer is rare, although more common in smokers or those who chew tobacco, but it can be serious if not treated quickly.





Lisa Martin

Lisa Martin is a qualified biology teacher and experienced freelance science writer from Warwickshire in the UK. She is fascinated by how the human body works and is particularly interested in writing about new research and discoveries in science and medicine.



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