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What Your Tongue is Really Saying

As a Coos Bay family dentist, Dr. Lori Lemire wants to help keep patients informed about potential problems with both their oral and overall health. That’s why regular exams and cleanings are such an important part of maintaining the health of your smile for a lifetime. Of course, it’s not only Dr. Lemire that can let patients know when something might be wrong; your tongue can also help.

From a potential warning to an underlying medical condition to the early signs of aging, your tongue can tell you a lot about the body if you know how to listen. With that in mind, here are a few things your tongue might say about your oral and overall health.

White Patches

Velvety white spots on your tongue could be a sign of thrush, a common fungal infection. Thrush typically develops following an illness or when certain types of prescription medications disrupt the balance between good and bad bacteria in the mouth.

White patches that appear lacy could be lichen planus, a condition where the body’s immune system attacks the soft tissues in the mouth. Conversely, if you notice hard, flat, white areas on the tongue that cannot be removed by scraping, it could be an early sign of leukoplakis, which is linked to cancer.

Since white patches can mean a variety of health issues, it’s important that patients always contact their Coos Bay family dentist for an appointment to get the problem examined.

A “Hairy” Tongue

If your tongue develops a coating of what appears to be black, white, or brown fur, you might have a hairy tongue. But before you get out the razor to shave, you should know those “hairs” are actually proteins that turn normal, small bumps found on the tongue into longer strands that allow food and bacteria to get stuck. Fortunately, this unfortunate problem should go way after brushing or scraping your tongue.

However, brown or white patches that cannot be scrapped off might be a sign of leukoplakia, a condition commonly caused by smoking.

A Bright Red Tongue

A healthy tongue should appear a bright pink, but a strawberry tongue might be an early sign for Kawasaki disease, a rare and serious illness that inflames blood vessels throughout the body, most frequently in kids. It’s also a common symptom of scarlet fever. However, an overly red tongue that’s smooth and causes discomfort may be a sign of vitamin B3 decency. Either way, if your tongue remains any other color than pink for more than a day, you should see Dr. Lemire.

A Burning Feeling

If your tongue feels like it was just dipped into a hot cup of coffee and you experience a slightly metallic or bitter taste, you may be experiencing burning mouth syndrome. A rare disorder, burning mouth disorder can be brought on by health problems such as dry mouth, acid reflux, diabetes, and oral infections. While there is no known cure, there are ways to treat the condition until it goes away.

A Smooth Tongue

Those tiny bumps on the top of your tongue play an important role in helping to differentiate taste and enjoy those subtle flavors. A tongue without any small bumps on top may be a sign that you’re not getting enough nutrients, such as vitamin B, folic acid, and iron. The condition can also be the result of celiac disease, an infection, or as a side effect of certain types of medications.


So if having no bumps on your tongue is bad, then having too many is also a cause for concern. Under the tongue is a common place for canker sores – a small, painful, reddish bump – to develop. A single, painful bump on the tip of your tongue could be what is known as transient lingual papillitis, which can develop when the tongue becomes irritated. A virus may also be responsible for causing a lot of tiny bumps to appear on the bottom or sides of your tongue. If you have a lump on or under your tongue that hurts and it won’t go away, make sure to contact Dr. Lemire. It could be a sign of oral health issues that may need to be examined.

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