Our tongue is a muscular organ of the mouth that has more important uses than people realize.
Most importantly, our tongue is needed for our speech, chewing our food and for taste. You can tell a lot about the health of your body by checking out your tongue.
What does a healthy tongue look like? There are three signs you need to look out for. Simply look in the mirror, stick out your tongue and check it out for yourself!
The Color of Your Tongue Matters
The best time to check out your tongue is right away in the morning when you first wake up. This way, the results will not be altered by eating, drinking, brushing or talking.
Ideally, what a healthy tongue looks like is a light pink color with only a very light white coating present. A bright red tongue could be an indication of vitamin B12 deficiency, heart disorders or blood diseases. Other deficiencies that may be noted with bright red tongue include folic acid and iron.
A blue tongue may indicate a condition where not enough oxygen supplies the tissues called cyanosis. This may indicate issues with blood vessels, kidney disease or respiratory insufficiency. If this condition is present, it is advised to seek medical attention immediately.
Having a yellow tongue may indicate jaundice. This color is uncommon but may be associated with problems of the liver.
A purple tongue can be a sign that the heart is not pumping blood properly and may be a sign of heart complications.
A common deviation of tongue color is white. A white tongue is most commonly caused by dehydration which may simply be corrected by drinking more water.
When the color of the tongue is gray it may indicate an intestinal or long term digestive issue.
What a Coating Means
The normal healthy covering of the tongue consists of tiny little pink bumps called papillae. These small bumps are on the tops and sides of the tongue. They are light pink and give your tongue its rough texture.
A healthy tongue can become coated making it hard to notice these normal pink bumps.
A thick, white coating is usually an indication of an overgrowth of bacteria. It could be an indication of thrush which is a fungal infection. This is usually noticed after an illness or medications disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in your mouth. This condition is also known as oral candidiasis. Diabetes is sometimes linked to a white coating. It is theorized that with uncontrolled diabetes, there is a high level of sugar in the saliva that fuels the overgrowth of the undesirable bacteria.
A brownish/black coating appearing like “hair” on the tongue indicates a condition where proteins turn the normal small bumps into longer strands that appear hairlike. This condition is called black hairy tongue. It is usually brought on by smoking, drinking coffee or tea and poor dental hygiene. Removing the cause, like smoking, and improving hygiene by use of tongue brushing or tongue scraping may be all that is needed to improve this condition.
Black coating on your tongue may be caused by using an antacid with an ingredient called bismuth. Certain people experience this when the antacid mixes with the saliva and goes away once you discontinue the medication.
What Does the Texture Mean?
When normal tiny pink bumps are not present, the tongue may appear smooth and glossy. For some people, this may also indicate vitamin deficiencies including those of all B vitamins, iron or folic acid.
Some medications, infections and celiac disease may be the cause of this shiny appearance of the tongue.
A condition called geographic tongue is quite common and is noted by smooth patches mixed in with bumpy patches. These patches come and go which is why it is called “geographic” and most times are no cause for concern. Sometimes these patches can become sensitive when eating hot or spicy foods.
Cleaning Your Tongue is as Important as Brushing Your Teeth
The tongue is a very good indicator of overall health. While suspected systemic conditions should always be evaluated by your physician, it is also important to always practice good oral hygiene and keep the tongue clean.
This includes removing excess plaque bacteria and food debris from the surface of the tongue. This can simply be done by using a tongue cleaner which is a tool that can easily be added to your home oral hygiene care.
An effective tongue cleaner will gently and thoroughly remove the unwanted material that may be hiding within the bumps of the tongue. This material includes bacteria and debris and is a known source of bad breath. In fact bad breath will be significantly improved by adding this one routine to your home care.
The best tongue cleaner will have a combination of a soft, microfiber bristle and a harder “scraper” to remove the loosened debris from using the bristles. Orabrush Tongue Cleaner from Orabrush has the perfect combination.
A tongue cleaner is used to brush and scrape the top surface of the tongue simultaneously for a short period of time (less than 30 seconds is adequate). By pressing down on the cleaner and moving the cleaner from the back of the mouth toward the tip of the tongue you will remove undesirable bacteria and debris.
Up to 90% of bad breath symptoms can originate from an unclean tongue.
Check Out Your Tongue Today!
If you notice anything unusual, please take the necessary precaution and schedule a visit with your physician to be evaluated. By simply sticking out your tongue you can get a glimpse of your overall health.
Be aware of what a healthy tongue looks like and take note of the 3 signs of an unhealthy tongue. These include unusual color, coating or texture.
I invite you to invest in a quality tongue cleaner to add to your home care and experience improved oral hygiene yourself!
I would be happy to answer any questions you may have and please feel free to share your comments involving your own experiences.