When was the last time you got a good look at your tongue? If it has been a while (or never happened before), now is a great time to stick your tongue out. The tongue is sometimes called the window into your health. This amazing organ can alert you to serious health issues before symptoms start. Keep reading for more reasons to stick your tongue out.
What is the tongue?
The tongue is a highly mobile, voluntary muscular structure attached to the base of the mouth. Naturally oblong in shape, the tongue’s surface contains a protective mucous membrane, several papillae, and taste buds. The tongue is considered both a sensory and digestive organ because of its ability to sense food particles for taste and kick off the digestion process by moving food from the mouth to the pharynx (the part of the throat behind the mouth and nasal cavity). In addition to helping us taste and eat our food, the tongue works with the lips and teeth to produce more than 90 words per minute. It also acts as a barrier to prevent harmful germs from entering the throat.
What to look for in a healthy tongue
Your tongue’s health is a preview of your body’s overall health with its ability to show signs of disease before symptoms even occur. Fortunately, you can determine if your tongue is healthy in less than a minute just by looking in the mirror and taking a moment to notice any changes in feeling. When checking for a healthy tongue, take note of the following:
- Moisture: Your tongue and mouth should always be moist to help with saliva production. If you have a dry mouth, you may experience discomfort and be at risk of several diseases.
- Texture: A healthy tongue should be bump-free, apart from the tiny projections known as papillae on your tongue’s back. Visit your dentist if you notice any lumps, bumps, or sores that become painful and aren’t improving with over-the-counter medications.
- Color: Your tongue’s color can indicate severe health problems ad help catch these developments early on. A healthy tongue is typically pink in color, ranging from lighter to darker hues. If you notice a change in your tongue’s color, you may have developed the following conditions:
- White: Oral thrush, Lichen planus, Leukoplakia.
- Red/Purple: Vitamin B deficiencies, Kawasaki disease, scarlet fever.
- Yellow: Bacterial overgrowth from smoking, chewing tobacco, or consuming certain vitamins.
- Black: poor oral hygiene, antibiotics, diabetes, chemotherapy treatments.
How to care for your tongue
The bottom line is that your tongue and overall health are more connected than you think. Fortunately, there are several steps you can make to help with overall tongue health to avoid developing any of the conditions above. Be sure to brush your tongue twice daily, rinse thoroughly, and drink plenty of water to keep the tongue clean and free from debris. You can also try using a tongue scraper to help remove the mucus layer on top of your tongue for a deeper clean.
Your dentist will examine your tongue health at any check-up appointment. However, if problems such as tongue pain, swelling, or a change in color persist for more than two weeks, it’s important that you see your doctor right away for early diagnosis and treatment.
Worried you may be at risk of any of the conditions above? Find a dentist near you and schedule an appointment and get your tongue health back where it needs to be!