When you think about maintaining oral health, what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s brushing and flossing to prevent tooth decay, tooth loss, and gingivitis. But on top of this, an equally important and often forgotten part of caring for is your tongue. This is because the state of your tongue and oral health go hand in hand.
Connections Between Tongue Health and Oral Health
There is no question that your tongue is essential for the everyday functioning of your body. This is because tongues play a major role in producing sound, speaking, swallowing, and chewing. Furthermore, the hundreds of taste buds on its surface allow you to enjoy the taste of food and beverages.
It is vital to pay close attention to the look and feel of your tongue to keep your oral health in tip-top shape. The appearance and sensations occurring on your tongue can say a lot about your overall health.
Here are four irregular symptoms of the tongue to look out for:
#1: Black Hairy Tongue
While it might be alarming to notice your tongue is black or dark in color with a furry appearance, don’t panic! A black hairy tongue is a relatively common condition affecting between 0.15 to 11% of the general population, often caused by an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast.1 It usually clears up on its own.
#2: White Tongue
If you notice your tongue is white in appearance or has white spots, there are a few potential culprits. Suppose your entire tongue has a white coating over it. This coating is commonly associated with inflammation and overgrowth of the tongue’s papillae from excessive bacteria and particles getting trapped on the tongue. Poor oral hygiene is likely the cause. Alternatively, patches of white may be from oral thrush – a fungal infection of the tongue – as well as leukoplakia, oral cancer, syphilis, or HIV.2
#3: Bright Red Tongue
Tongues that are bright red and bumpy are sometimes referred to as strawberry tongue for the way it mimics the appearance of the fruit. A strawberry tongue can be attributed to a variety of conditions and deficiencies in the body, including:3
- Deficiency in Vitamin B-12
- Kawasaki disease, a condition primarily found in children that causes the blood vessels to swell throughout the body
- Scarlet fever, an infection from untreated strep throat
#4: Painful Tongue With Sores
Painful or numb tongues with bumps or sores that regularly bleed, cause pain, and don’t heal within a couple of weeks could be a symptom of oral cancer. If this is occurring on your tongue, it is always a good idea to have it checked out by your dentist to rule out this potentially serious condition.
Three Best Practices Maintaining Excellent Tongue Health
In addition to taking good care of your teeth and gums, here are three of the best practices for prioritizing your tongue health:
#1: Don’t Forget To Brush Your Tongue
Just as you brush your teeth two times a day with fluoride toothpaste, brushing your tongue alongside them is a great way to clear away food buildup to keep your mouth clean and smelling at its best. Here’s how you do it: gently brush your tongue with your toothbrush.
#2: Stay Hydrated
Always drink a lot of water to keep your tongue well-hydrated. When you experience dry mouth, bacteria and food particles are festering on your tongue and teeth, contributing to bad breath and tongue conditions.
#3: Ditch The Tobacco
Using tobacco can wreak havoc on the status of your oral health, including the tongue. Tobacco products are known to contribute to the risk of getting oral cancer on the tongue. Smokers are at a 10x higher risk for oral cancer compared to non-smokers.4
Tip-Top Tongue Health With Empire Dental Care
Whether it’s for a routine cleaning or to investigate a specific concern with your gums, teeth, or tongue, the dental professionals at Empire Dental Care can help you improve your oral health issues in no time. We invite you to contact us online or call us at 585.671.1650 to schedule your first appointment today.