When was the last time you got a good look at your tongue? If it’s been a while (or never happened before), now is a great time to stick your tongue out. This amazing organ can alert you to serious health issues, such as diabetes or certain deficiencies, 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. 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 symptoms such as constant sore throat, bad breath, taste disorders, and others.
- 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. They may be a sign of a serious disease such as cancer.
- Color: Your tongue’s color can indicate severe health problems and help detect them 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:
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 your 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 you notice new problems such as tongue pain, swelling, or a change in colors, 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!
*Updated July 2023