What your tongue says about your health

Life Lessons

What your tongue says about your health

What happens in your mouth can affect your overall health.
Keeping your mouth healthy and your teeth gleaming can take work. You probably already know that maintaining a healthy smile means brushing twice a day and flossing regularly. You may even gargle with mouthwash on a routine basis. But what if none of your efforts lead to a healthy-looking tongue?

If you can relate to any of the following questions, your tongue may be telling you it’s time to take action.

Do you suffer from an overly dry tongue?
A dry tongue is telling you your mouth isn’t producing enough saliva. The cause of this low production varies, but some common causes are dehydration, smoking and diabetes.

Another factor to consider is stress. Stress can cause the salivary glands to swell, making your tongue feel dry. If you can’t find a treatment that works for you, consider visiting your dentist to see what treatment he or she can offer.

Is your tongue covered in white patches?
If you have white patches on your tongue that don’t go away after you brush, it could be an overgrowth of yeast (candida), or thrush. Thrush is often easily treatable with an antifungal rinse or pill.

Underlying conditions, compromised immune systems and some antibiotics can make you more susceptible to thrush. For example, you may be at higher risk of this fungal infection if you have diabetes, are on chemotherapy, take inhaled steroids for asthma or COPD, or have leukoplakia.

Is your tongue red or purple?
A red tongue may be caused by a lack of nutrients including vitamin B complex or iron. It can also be a reaction to acidic foods, drinks or oral hygiene products. For children, a strawberry-colored tongue, along with accompanying symptoms, could be a symptom of scarlet fever or Kawasaki disease.

If your tongue appears to be a purple shade, it may be a sign of a low oxygen supply, which could be caused by poor circulation or your blood not carrying enough oxygen. The causes of a purple tongue can range in severity from chronic bronchitis to a reaction from eating too many cold foods.

If your tongue is purple, it’s important to note any other symptoms you may be experiencing. For example, if your tongue is swollen or has purple sores (not caused by a known injury), you could have purple tongue syndrome or even oral cancer.

To be safe, if your tongue’s color doesn’t return to its natural pink color after brushing your teeth, consider visiting a doctor or dentist.

Your tongue can act as a barometer to your body’s overall health and well-being. During your routine checkup, your dentist checks for more than cavities and gum disease, looking for any sign your health has been compromised. If you’ve noticed a persistent change in your tongue or mouth, visit your dentist to be safe.

This post is based on content that first appeared in SmileInSight.