Apart from the fact that the tongue is the organ of taste, it can also be used for the diagnosis of some health conditions. Your tongue can tell you an awful lot about your health. Diabetes, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, fever, and even cancer can be gleaned by just looking at your tongue. Strange, right? It might be strange but it doesn’t change the fact that it is the truth. So pay more attention to your tongue the next time you brush your teeth. A healthy tongue should be a vibrant pink color and covered in small, nodule-like projections called papillae.
Here are the things your tongue can tell you about your health:
Red Tongue: a red tongue may be a sign of B-complex vitamin deficiencies, usually folic acid and vitamin B-12. A simple blood test can be carried out to ascertain the level of the deficiencies.
White Patches on Your Tongue: if there are white patches on your tongue, it shows you have oral thrush, or oral candidiasis, a fungal infection caused by the overgrowth of yeast in your tongue. Proper oral hygiene like brushing twice a day is usually enough to resolve it. If it persists after a week of brushing your tongue, please contact your doctor.
Black and Hairy Looking Tongue: Dead papillae can accumulate over time and give your tongue a hairy look. Black hairy tongue can be caused by yeast infections, diabetes, cancer, or just poor oral hygiene. This condition can also be caused by bacteria harbored by overgrown papillae. This condition is not serious and with good oral hygiene, it will be resolved in a few days.
Bumps or Sores on Your Tongue: this can be caused by accidentally biting down on your tongue, smoking, or mouth ulcers. It is usually not serious and will resolve on its own if triggers like spicy food and cigarette smoke are avoided. Home remedies like gargling of warm salt water have been known to help relieve symptoms.
Red and White Spots on Your Tongue: this shows part of your tongue your taste buds have worn out or died. In time, they are replaced by newer cells. It is common and nothing to be worried about.
Geographic Tongue: this is characterized by map-like reddish spots on the tongue. This condition is harmless and will be resolved by itself over time. It is also quite common, especially among children.
Strawberry-like Appearance on Your tongue: red and bumpy strawberry-like sores on the tongue can be caused by scarlet fever. It can also be caused by Kawasaki disease, a serious condition that affects children under the age of five. Strawberry-like bumps on the tongue should be taken seriously and a physician should be contacted to ascertain the cause.
Sores: small to medium sores on your tongue that does not go away after two weeks could signify oral cancer. It is important to notify your dentist even if the sores are not painful.
In conclusion, most tongue diseases that involve discoloration of the tongue are quite harmless and will go away if good oral hygiene is practiced. However, a few like black and hairy tongue and sores that do not go away after a few weeks could be a precursor to acute or chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer. Good oral hygiene should be practiced at all times to prevent most tongue diseases. Always brush your tongue when you brush your teeth and never forget to stick it out in front of a mirror to give it a proper check. You never know, you might be saving your life.