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5 Things Your Tongue May be Trying to Tell You

Which Tongue Is Yours?

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You know the drill; after the initial pleasantries at a dentist's appointment, you'll be asked to 'open and up and say 'ahh', so he or she can get a good look at your teeth. But your teeth aren’t all they are looking at, as the condition of your gums and tongue can be very telling as well. 

Tongue? That surprised you maybe? The fact is however that this often overlooked - but large and important - body part can tell a dentist or a doctor more about your overall health than you might imagine. And learning to spot the warnings that your tongue might be trying to send to you between dentist visits can actually help you stay healthier. Here's a look at five of the most common messages the tongue tries to send to warn its human that there might be something wrong.

1. White Patches

Sometimes, white patches on the tongue are a sign that something is a little amiss with your daily oral hygiene routine. This can often be solved by making use of that bumpy backside of your toothbrush to clean your tongue when you clean your teeth. However, if you do that for a week or two with no change, something else may be wrong.

White patches and bumps on the tongue can also often be caused by a yeast infection, or can be a sign of a condition called leukoplakia, which is often caused by tobacco or chronic alcohol use. Both conditions are usually easily treated, so a call to the doctor sooner rather than later is almost certainly a good idea. 

2. You're Seeing Red

A red tongue can also be a sign of several different things. One of the most common is dry mouth, a situation you can remedy by remembering to stay hydrated and occasionally chewing on some sugar free gum. A rosy tongue can also signify that some of your taste buds are reacting badly to a certain food, to stress, or even a deficiency in a vitamin like folic acid or B12, both of which are important to their function.

Finally, a very red tongue accompanied by a sore throat is often a sign of an infection like strep throat or even scarlet fever. Both conditions can be treated easily with antibiotics and so once again, the faster you make a doctor's appointment, the sooner you'll feel better.

3. Things are Bumpy

Often bumps on the tongue are a temporary condition caused by a certain foodstuff you've recently consumed, especially things that are hot, both in terms of temperature and/or spice level. These will usually go away by themselves rather quickly.

Other causes of tongue bumps can include canker sores and herpes (cold sores), both of which will eventually go away on their own but can be treated to speed healing and ease discomfort. And in some cases, if you bite your tongue repeatedly (and some do, out of habit) a bump may actually be a fibroma and that should be looked at by your dentist, as in some cases they will need to be removed. 

4. Ridges or Indentations

No tongue is perfectly smooth, and so in some cases ridges or indentations in your tongue are simply down to genetics. They may also be a sign that you have a fissured tongue, a long crack down the middle of the tongue that again, most people are just born with. It is something you should be aware of though, as it's easy for food to get stuck in that crack and cause bad breath and help the growth of potentially damaging to your teeth bacteria. Brushing your tongue will help, as will a chat with your dentist about the issue. 

5. Swelling

A swollen tongue can be very temporary, a reaction to a cup of coffee that was a bit too hot, or accidentally biting your tongue instead of your food. This swelling is mild and will go away on its own, although sucking on an ice cube can help speed things up.

Sudden, more serious swelling however can be a sign that you allergic to something you just ate or drank. This can impair your breathing, something that is obviously dangerous, so medical attention should be sought right away. 


Your tongue is often trying to tell you something, so take notice! The health of your tongue is also important to your overall oral health. The best you can do to for your tongue is eat well and brush it daily!

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