When it comes to your oral hygiene, you probably consider your teeth and gums. While this should certainly be your focus area inside your mouth, there is another area that you need to pay attention to: your tongue. Your tongue, just like your fingerprint, is a one-of-a-kind feature and it can hold powerful information about your overall health. Neglecting to keep your tongue clean means you are ignoring a large surface of bacteria inside your mouth. Identifying certain features and changes in your tongue can be your first warning signs for health issues ranging from nutritional deficiencies to oral cancer.
Add a quick tongue check to your nightly brushing and flossing habits. You can start by keeping track of changes in its surface texture and color as well as noting any bumps or sores. Ask yourself the following questions when you look at your tongue in the mirror.
Are there any changes to the way the surface of my tongue looks and feels? If you become familiar with your tongue surface, you can detect sudden changes. For example, if you notice that your tongue feels especially smooth and looks pale, you may have an iron deficiency. Other conditions, such as scrotal tongue, are known for its deep grooves and wrinkled surface.
Are there any new bumps? A cold sore may be hard to ignore on your tongue, as they can be very uncomfortable. Bumps that are caused by a virus will typically go away on their own in about a week. However, if you have a persistent bump or sore on your tongue that will not go away, ask your dentist for an oral cancer screening. Regardless of their color or level of discomfort, always pay attention to new lesions or bumps on your tongue.
Is my tongue color anything other than a healthy pink? A discrepancy from the common healthy pink color may be a sign that you are overdoing it with certain habits or it could also be a symptom of an underlying condition. For example, a red tongue could be the first sign of scarlet fever or Kawasaki disease in a child or a vitamin B deficiency in an adult. If you notice that your tongue has taken on a black or yellow appearance, you may need to start brushing your tongue better to reduce inflammation and clean out trapped bacteria on your tongue’s surface. Dry mouth or dehydration can also make your tongue look paler in color.
Stick out your tongue at yourself in the mirror and get to know your tongue a little better. A closer relationship with your tongue can be an invaluable tool for detecting changes in your overall health. If you notice sudden changes that concern you, always talk to your dentist right away. Gilreath Family Dentistry offers oral cancer screenings during routine dental checkups and we understand the importance of a healthy tongue.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Paul Gilreath IV,