How Does Your Tongue Reflect Your Oral Health?

Chances are, you’re already familiar with what a dentist does. Most people understand that a dentist is responsible for helping patients maintain healthy teeth. However, you may not know that teeth are only one part of the equation. The dentists here at Miners Ravine Dental Group focus on the entirety of oral health. That includes the teeth, gums, and tongue.

The tongue is an important indicator of dental health. It’s one of the first places that a dentist checks when they want to assess your overall oral health. A tongue can provide us with early warning signs of more serious health concerns. In some cases, it can help us act preemptively and treat a condition before it has time to cause permanent damage.

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What Are Our Dentists Looking For?

The experts here at Miners Ravine suggest scheduling a dental checkup at least twice a year. During these checkups, there are some important signs of oral health that we like to check. You may be wondering what those signs are and what exactly they mean. As we mentioned earlier, the tongue is one of the key areas we check first.

There are several potential changes in size, color, or texture that indicate a health concern. When investigating the tongue, we look for changes contrasting your previous appointment. In an ideal scenario, your tongue will be a healthy pink when a standard pattern of small bumps.

What if Your Tongue is Black and Hairy?

Seeing a black tongue is enough to scare most people. It may not be the most serious health concern, but there’s no denying that it looks gross and unsettling. We know that our tongues are not supposed to be black, so seeing it on ourselves justifiably causes panic. And if you combine that with an unfamiliar hairy texture, it’s enough reason to contact your dentist.

The good news is that it isn’t hair on your tongue. In most cases, it is a buildup of dead skin cells that alters the texture and appearance of the papillae, which are the small bumps on your tongue. Several different conditions can cause this black and hairy appearance. Luckily, most of these conditions are not serious concerns.

Common Causes: Poor hygiene, excessive tobacco or alcohol use, or dietary changes that affect bacteria in the mouth.

Common Symptoms: Tongue appears black and/or hairy, offensive breath, strange taste in the mouth.

What if Your Tongue Has Bumps and Hurts?

Every tongue is covered in bumps called papillae. These bumps are perfectly normal and are necessary for tasting. The number and size of bumps on the tongue should remain consistent. When new bumps appear that last more than a few days it is often a sign of a bigger problem. This is especially true if the new bumps also cause pain.

In a “worst-case scenario,” a bump may be an early sign of cancer. This is why it’s so important to schedule an appointment with a dentist if you find a bump that doesn’t go away on its own. It may ultimately be something minor, but it’s always beneficial to identify the cause as soon as possible.

Common Causes: Oral cancer can be caused by excessive use of tobacco or alcohol and exposure to the sun.

Common Symptoms: Bumps on the tongue that do not go away, numbness, bad breath, and painful sores.

What if Your Tongue Has Noticeable Ridges?

Sometimes referred to as a “Scalloped Tongue,” having noticeable ridges along the edge of the tongue is not a cause for serious concern. However, some causes of a scalloped tongue can lead to more severe health concerns. It’s always worth discussing the possibilities with your dentist during your next appointment.

Common Causes: Dietary changes, iron deficiency, and sleep apnea.

Common Symptoms: Noticeable ripples or waves along the edge of the tongue.

What if Your Tongue Has White Spots?

Numerous white spots on the tongue may be a sign of oral thrush, which is a type of infection caused by yeast. It may also be caused by a condition known as Leukoplakia. Leukoplakia is typically associated with heavy tobacco use and can lead to the development of cancer.

Common Causes: Excessive tobacco and/or alcohol use, dehydration, and poor hygiene.

Common Symptoms: Numerous white spots on the top of the tongue.

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the condition of your tongue even when you’re at home and away from the dentist. Your tongue can warn you of more serious health conditions as they develop. If you notice any serious changes in texture or color, then you should contact the professionals at Miners Ravine Dental Group.