February 25, 2022
The tongue is an organ that is mainly made from muscles and lets you properly eat, digest food, swallow, and speak. It also helps defend your body against germs that enter through your mouth. Additionally, the state of your tongue is a good indicator of health issues in both your oral cavity and the rest of your body. Read on to learn what different colors and textures mean as well as how to clean your tongue to prevent health problems.
A White Tongue
When someone has a healthy tongue, it’s usually pink in color. The papillae, which are the bumps on the top and sides of your tongue, should be small and painless. If you notice a white coating or white spots on your tongue, this may be an indicator of:
- Oral thrush – This yeast infection develops in the mouth and is more common in the elderly, infants, people with diabetes, and those who take inhaled steroids.
- Leukoplakia – This can occur when the tongue is irritated. It may be a precursor to oral cancer and is more common in those who use tobacco products.
- Oral lichen planus – This causes a system of raised white lines to form on the tongue and usually goes away on its own.
A Red Tongue
A red tongue may be a sign of several conditions, including:
- Scarlet fever – This infection makes one’s tongue red, bumpy, and may cause pain when chewing or swallowing. Though it’s easy to cure, untreated scarlet fever may cause enamel damage.
- Geographic tongue – This condition is usually harmless and creates smooth, red patches on the sides or top of the tongue. Though they may clear up on their own, they often change size, shape, or location before doing so.
- A vitamin deficiency – A deficiency of folic acid or vitamin B-12 can make your tongue turn red.
A Black and “Hairy” Tongue
If the papillae get too long, they may harbor bacteria and cause your tongue to look hairy and black. This is an uncommon condition and is not usually serious. People with diabetes, those with bad oral hygiene, people who take antibiotics, and those receiving chemotherapy are more likely to develop this condition.
A Sore or Bumpy Tongue
Bruxism is a condition characterized by jaw clenching and teeth grinding. This can irritate the sides of your tongue, which can lead to the formation of painful bumps. Additionally, if lumps or sores on your tongue don’t go away within two weeks, this may be a sign of oral cancer.
How to Clean Your Tongue
Though not all of these issues can be solved by knowing how to clean your tongue, it can still lessen your chances of developing some of them. A tongue scraper is the best tool to use, but a toothbrush with soft bristles will also work. Stick your tongue out and place the tool you’re using toward the back. Press down gently and pull it toward the front of your tongue. Run the toothbrush or tongue scraper under warm water to clear away debris. Spit out any excess saliva and repeat until your tongue has been thoroughly cleaned.
Now that you know how to clean your tongue properly, you can prevent several oral health issues. This will allow you to maintain a well-functioning, healthy mouth!
About the Practice
Lapalco Family Dental offers a range of general, restorative, cosmetic, and emergency dental services to keep your smile healthy and prevent issues. Treatments like checkups and cleanings will allow you to maintain a gorgeous grin and keep your tongue and the rest of your mouth functioning as intended. To make an appointment with Lapalco Family Dental or for more information on their many service offerings, visit their website or call their office at (504) 348-0080.
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