Monday, September 18

What colour does your tongue have? What is and is not healthy?

Think of the tongue as the body's equivalent of a check-engine light if the eyes are the windows to the soul. Doctors can infer certain elements of your health from the appearance of your tongue, and one key indicator is its colour.


How should your tongue appear?

The form of the tongue should be symmetrical and circular. In people from Africa, Asia, and the Mediterranean, it is typically light pink, while some individuals may have slight purple or brown pigmentation. Additionally, it may have a faint white coating.

"The hard protein called keratin, which helps prevent your tongue from being scratched during eating, is the source of the coating," says prosthodontist Dr. Tien Jiang of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine's Department of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology.

If you look closely, you may notice that your tongue is covered in tiny bumps called papillae that have multiple functions.

They have tactile and thermal senses.

They have taste buds that allow you to identify whether food is savoury, sweet, salty, sour, or bitter.

To assist you in forming a little ball of food (bolus) that you may swallow, they create friction.

Does tongue colour change with diet?
Sure. An occasional deviation from your typical tongue tone can be partially attributed to your diet. This is due to the papillae's ability to absorb food and drink colours and residues. For instance, the blue popsicle or sweets you had as a child most likely gave your tongue a vibrant hue of blue. Additionally, a variety of foods, including curries that contain a lot of yellow turmeric, tea, coffee, and other drinks, can leave their marks.

However, discoloration is typically very transient. You can wash away food particles and colours that stick to your tongue by drinking lots of water and practicing proper oral hygiene.

Concerning symptoms include white patches, a black or bright tongue, and other

Certain tongue colours and designs indicate medical problems. See your physician if you have any of the following symptoms:

A black or brown tongue is indicative of a disease known as "black hairy tongue." When papillae become too long, this happens. Because they are constantly falling out because of all the action in your mouth, these little bumps typically don't have much of an opportunity to grow. In the event that they do grow, the brown or black tint may result from the bacteria they collect combining with food colouring. Using antihistamines or antibiotics, smoking, having a dry mouth, consuming a lot of coffee or black tea, or having poor dental care are risk factors.
If you have thick white spots or white sores on your tongue, you most likely have thrush, an overabundance of yeast in the mouth. Conditions like diabetes or HIV, adverse reactions to antibiotics or cancer treatments, wearing dentures, smoking, dry mouth, or using steroid inhalers can all cause thrush. White patches or lesions may occasionally be signs of oral cancer.
You may have oral cancer in rare instances, thrush (which occasionally manifests as red patches), or canker sores (irritated tissues) if you have painful red or yellow sores on your tongue.
A brightly coloured tongue may be a sign of vitamin B12 insufficiency or scarlet fever, which is a bacterial infection of the throat caused by Streptococcus pneumonias that is accompanied by a rash that turns red across the body. Bright red, painless spots that appear to move about on your tongue could be an innocuous, incurable illness known as "geographic tongue."

Is it better to use a tongue scraper or to brush your tongue?
Brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day are essential components of good oral hygiene. Use the brush on your tongue for a few seconds.

With your tongue stuck out, make three swipes with your toothbrush—one down the centre, one down the left, and one down the right. This aids in clearing the papillae of germs and debris buildup, according to Dr. Jiang.

Some swear by cleaning their tongues with a tongue scraper. Although Dr. Jiang isn't a fan, he doesn't mind if someone uses the device, which is comparable to brushing the tongue but is pulled forward on the tongue. "Effectiveness data with tongue scrapers is inconsistent," she states. "What you're willing to do on a daily basis to maintain the healthiest possible tongue, teeth, mouth, and gums is all that matters."


Nervous about your tongue? How to Proceed
Contact your primary care physician or dentist if you have any concerns about anything related to your tongue, particularly if you also have a fever, a very painful throat, persistent sores, or other new symptoms.

Your dentist or physician can

evaluate your health.
recommend or provide pain relief measures, such as warm-water rinses or medicated mouthwashes; encourage you to drink enough water and practice better oral hygiene.
Your physician may recommend you to a specialist for additional assessment if needed.

What colour does your tongue have?


No content on this site, regardless of date, should be used to replace direct medical advice from your doctor or another trained practitioner.
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