The tongue is such an active part of our everyday lives during eating and speaking. Though many people may not be aware, the tongue is actually a very good measure of the overall health of the body. You can avoid many tongue problems by maintaining good oral hygiene, and regularly visiting your dentist for routine examinations and cleanings. However, tongue problem symptoms may arise due to an underlying disorder that needs medical treatment.
Although usually not serious, several problems can affect your tongue including:
- Taste changes
- Color changes
- Texture changes
The specific symptoms you’re undergoing will help your doctor recognize the cause of your tongue problem.
What Causes a White Tongue?
A white layer or white spots on the tongue could indicate the following:
- Oral Thrush - A yeast infection that occurs inside the mouth as white patches that are mostly the consistency of cottage cheese. Oral thrush is generally seen in newborns and the elderly, especially denture wearers, or those with weakened immune systems.
- Leukoplakia - A disorder in which the mouth cells multiply excessively, causing white patches on the tongue and inside the mouth. Leukoplakia is believed to trigger cancer but isn’t necessarily dangerous by itself. It is frequently diagnosed in individuals who use tobacco products.
- Oral Lichen Planus - A network of elevated white lines on your tongue with a lacey appearance could indicate this condition. Doctors often can't identify its cause, but it usually gets better on its own.
What Causes a Red or Strawberry Tongue?
Multiple factors can cause a usually pink tongue to turn red. Possible causes include:
- Vitamin Deficiencies - Deficiencies of folic acid and vitamin B-12 may cause your tongue to take on a reddish appearance.
- Geographic Tongue - This condition is also called benign migratory glossitis. It has a map-like layout of reddish spots that grow on the surface of the tongue.
- Scarlet Fever - It's an infection that causes the tongue to have a strawberry-like (red and bumpy) appearance. Antibiotics are required to treat scarlet fever.
- Kawasaki Disease - A condition that can also lead to a strawberry-like formation on the tongue. It is noticed in children below the age of 5 and is followed by a high fever.
What Causes Black Hairy Tongue?
A black tongue is generally a harmless condition, associated with extended tongue papillae that are more prone to harbor bacteria. When these bacteria multiply, they may appear dark or black, and the large papillae look hairy. It is most likely to occur in people who do not practice good dental hygiene.
What Causes a Sore or Bumpy Tongue?
Bumps or soreness on your tongue can be due to:
- Tongue Injuries - A trauma to the tongue can cause it to appear bumpy. As with other body parts, the tongue may bulge in response to an injury.
- Canker Sores - Canker sores are among the most regular causes of ulcers in the mouth. The lesions tend to be red, white, or yellow in appearance and can feel raw and very painful.
- Cancer - Although uncommon, a bump on the tongue could indicate cancer disease. A tongue bump can be potentially cancerous if it develops on the side of the tongue, mainly if it is hard and painless. You should consult a doctor if a lump or bump last more than a week or two.
- Burning Tongue Syndrome - Some postmenopausal women exhibit this syndrome, which makes the tongue seem as if it has been burned.
- Enlarged Papillae - If any of your taste buds get inflamed or irritated, it can enlarge and develop a painful bump on your tongue.
- Certain Medical Conditions - Medical conditions, such as diabetes and anemia, can give rise to a sore tongue symptom.
Related Article: 6 Things Your Dentist Can Easily Know by Looking in Your Mouth
Practice good oral hygiene to avoid tongue problems. However, if you are facing any of the symptoms discussed here, contact your dentist for a routine examination. Leading dentists in Des Moines will successfully help resolve any of your tongue problems.