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What Your Tongue Can Tell You About Your Oral Health

Dentistry Chicago,IL

Most people think of their teeth and gums when considering their oral health. The tongue is often forgotten, rarely brushed or scraped, until you notice a strange texture or color. Your tongue is an essential part of your dental hygiene routine, and you should discuss any changes with your dentist as soon as possible. Sometimes, your tongue is trying to tell you something significant about your oral or overall health.

Dr. Raymond Hatland is a highly experienced dentist who offers a full range of dentistry services to his clients in the Chicago and Indianapolis areas. He blends evidence-based dental care with a holistic approach for a truly customized dental experience.

Changes to Watch for on Your Tongue

The patterns, textures and tones of your tongue can give medical professionals a picture of your health. Bumps, spots and patches on your tongue are often harmless, but they can also indicate infection, medical concerns or that you are under a lot of stress. Schedule a dental exam with Dr. Hatland if you experience any of these tongue changes:

  • Burning Sensation: A burning feeling on your tongue can be linked to diabetes, acid reflux and dry mouth, and it can signal an issue with the nerves if accompanied by a bitter or metallic taste.
  • Tongue Lumps and Bumps: Reddish bumps that are small and painful could be a virus if they come and go, but lumps that stick around, especially after one to two weeks, could be a warning sign of oral cancer.
  • Tongue Soreness: A sore tongue could be thrush (a yeast infection in the mouth that requires anti-fungal treatment), canker sores, illness, medication side effects or oral cancer. A sore tongue combined with white or red patches or lumps can be a serious concern.
  • A “Too-Large” Tongue: Macroglossia occurs when your tongue is too large when compared to the size of your mouth and typically causes teeth imprints on the sides of your tongue. Hypothyroidism, allergies or infection could be to blame.
  • White Coating: These small bumps on the tongue are called papillae and can become overgrown, creating a buildup of bacteria and food debris. Poor oral hygiene and dry mouth can lead to this white coating.
  • Black- or Brown-Tinted Tongue: The overgrown papillae creating the white coating can stain, causing your tongue to appear black and hairy. This may be due to drinks, food or habits such as smoking or chewing tobacco. Better oral hygiene, medication changes and quitting tobacco can eliminate this discolored coating.
  • A Smooth or Pale Tongue: If your tongue loses its luster and becomes smoother, you may have low iron levels or anemia.
  • Strawberry Tongue: Strep throat, food or medication allergies and other medical conditions can cause swollen, red bumps that look like a strawberry’s surface on the tongue.
  • Fissured Tongue: People who have fissures or cracks on their tongues may be born with it, and it’s typically not a concern, but you need to brush your tongue to prevent food from getting stuck in the cracks.

Many of these tongue concerns go away on their own or with treatment and better oral hygiene. However, some tongue changes are signs of infection, oral cancer or a systemic disorder.

Schedule Your Dental Exam in Chicago

To request an appointment with Dr. Hatland, please contact our practice today. You can reach our Chicago office by calling (773) 338-4440 or our Indianapolis office by calling (317) 257-0794.