If you’re wondering whether there’s something wrong with your oral health, a good indication would be to stick out your tongue and look in the mirror. A completely healthy tongue should be pink and covered with tiny bumps called papillae. Any deviation from this norm, or pain on your tongue, should be cause for concern, and you should get evaluated by your family dentist in Parker. Let’s look at what different problems on your tongue can mean for your oral health.
Sore or Bumpy Tongue
Painful bumps on the tongue may be due to:
- Smoking: Tobacco irritates the tongue, which may result in soreness.
- Trauma: Biting your tongue or chowing down on something fresh out of the oven can cause damage that takes a few days to heal. Additionally, grinding your teeth can irritate the sides of your tongue.
- Canker sores: Many people develop these mouth ulcers at one point or another, and they usually heal on their own.
- Oral cancer: If you have a sore area on your tongue that doesn’t heal after a few days, see your dentist. It could be an early sign of oral cancer.
Black and Hairy Tongue
The papillae on your tongue grow throughout your life, just like your hair. For some people, they grow excessively long, which makes them a great place for bacteria to build up.
When these bacteria accumulate, they might appear black, and the overgrown papillae may look like hair. Luckily, this condition usually isn’t serious and can often be remedied with increased oral hygiene.
If your tongue is red, it could be indicative of:
- Vitamin deficiency: Your tongue might take on a reddish hue if you’re lacking in vitamin B-12 or folic acid.
- Scarlet fever: If your red tongue is accompanied by a high fever, you should see your doctor. Antibiotics are needed to treat scarlet fever.
- Kawasaki disease: This is a serious medical condition that causes the tongue to take on a strawberry-like (red and bumpy) appearance. It occurs mainly in young children and requires immediate medical attention.
White Tongue or White Spots on Tongue
A white tongue could mean:
- Oral thrush: White patches could mean a yeast infection inside the mouth known as oral thrush. It’s most commonly seen in young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.
- Leukoplakia: The cells in your mouth might be growing excessively, leading to white patches in the mouth and on the tongue. Leukoplakia can sometimes be a precursor to cancer, but not necessarily. It’s best to see your dentist for an evaluation.
Your family dentist in Parker North says everyone should check their tongue daily when they brush and floss. If you notice any abnormalities that don’t go away within two weeks, come in for an appointment so your dentist can determine what’s wrong.
About the Author
Dr. Rodney L. Allen has been providing excellent, personalized dental care in Parker, CO for 20 years and counting. Before that, he achieved his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Baylor College of Dentistry. Since then, he has participated in numerous continuing education courses, including classes at Spear Education. If your tongue has been looking or feeling strange lately, you can contact Dr. Allen’s practice at (720) 851-6784.