If the eyes are the window to the soul, what is the tongue? It happens to be an excellent indicator of your general health. The texture and color reveal both harmless and serious conditions.
When the tongue is healthy, it’s pink with a thin white coating on the surface. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the strongest muscle in the body. It’s a collection of eight separate muscles covered by small nodules called papillae. We use it for talking, chewing, and tasting food. When all is well with this hard working organ, we tend not to give it much thought. But what about when things aren’t so good?
Common Tongue Problems and Causes
People sometimes are born with harmless lingual conditions. A serious problem, such as tongue cancer, can be related to risk factors such as smoking and drinking alcohol. Additionally, a tongue issue may be a result of an underlying medical condition. Symptoms of problems include:
- Increased size
- Abnormalities of the surface
- Growths (bumps)
- Difficulty with movement
Occasionally whitish spots or a thick white coating will appear. This can be caused by several factors:
A bright red tongue with enlarged taste buds is often referred to as, “strawberry tongue.” Possible causes include:
Geographic tongue – This is a condition where a maplike pattern of red spots outlined in white forms. The patches typically are harmless, but if they last for more than two weeks, it’s time to see the dentist.
Black Hairy Tongue
Though it sounds scary, it is a harmless condition. The tongue, as the name implies, appears black and hairy. It’s caused by a buildup of dead skin cells on the taste buds. Potential causes include antibiotic use and tobacco use. Improved oral hygiene will eliminate the problem.
Most tongue issues aren’t serious and are easily treatable. However, as with any abnormality in your mouth, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Check in with your dentist if anything seems unusual and/or painful.