The colour, texture and moisture of your tongue can provide tell-tale signs of what’s going on inside your body.
“Your tongue is richly supplied with blood vessels. Thanks to a constant flow of saliva, it is constantly being cleaned which discourages harmful bacteria forming in the mouth area. However, if a person is unwell, a problem can often be detected by simply looking at the tongue.”says naturopath Laurence Kirk of The British College of Naturopath and Osteopathy.
Your tongue can give you an insight into your own health. It is important to remember that even though your tongue can tell you a great deal about your health, it is not always 100 percent accurate.
The colour of your tongue as well as the colour of any coating will vary because of food, beverages, medications and smoking, which is why you should always examine it first thing or at least an hour after any exposure to these factors. The best time to look at your tongue is first thing in the morning before brushing your teeth in natural light.
Tongue Colour can range from pale pink to red or even have a blue tinge
A pale tongue is most likely indicating a vitamin or nutritional deficiency. A purple or a bluish tinge tongue could be a warning that fluids and blood are not fully circulating.
The Coating on Your Tongue
A normal, healthy tongue will have a light white coating which can easily be brushed away. The tongue coat, which often shows up on the middle or at the back of the tongue, lets you know how well you are metabolizing the food you eat.
A light, thin, white tongue coat reflects healthy digestive function. A thick tongue coat reflects an excess of dampness, or pathogenic fluid. The tongue coat may be thick and yellow or thick and white. Most commonly, a thick tongue coat is associated with poor gut function.
No tongue coat at all could mean some form of exhaustion in the body. For example, a red and shiny wet tongue could signal that the body does not have enough fluids to produce a coat. A natural balance of fluids in the body is essential for healthy gut function and overall vitality.
A smooth tongue could mean a nutritional deficiency. You might notice map-like patches on the tongue that seemingly change areas from one day to the next. Or you may experience a benign yet rather uncomfortable condition called geographic tongue, brought on by a vitamin B deficiency, or an irritation stemming from alcohol or certain foods.
A wrinkled tongue is relatively harmless, but it can cause a burning sensation after you eat spicy foods, not to mention prevent your tongue from remaining clean and clear of bacteria.
White Patches could be thrush, a fungal infection which often happens after an illness or medications throw off the balance of bacteria in your mouth. White patches that look lacy could be lichen planus, which means your immune system is attacking the tissues in your mouth. If you see hard, flat, white areas that can’t be scraped away, it could be leukoplakia, which is linked to cancer. Let our dentist know about any white patches you see.
Another thing to watch out for is persistent dryness. This can be a sign of Sjogren’s syndrome, a debilitating immunological disorder. If your tongue is constantly dry, see your doctor. And, if your tongue feels like you scalded it and tastes metallic or bitter, you may have burning mouth syndrome.
The Bottom Line
The tongue may be a good indicator of something more serious lurking within. If you do have concerns about your tongue colour or coating, then feel free to bring it to the attention of our dentists. We monitor your tongue’s health as part of our oral examinations and if indicated your GP will make the final diagnosis.