"One of the best dental groups in the DMV!" — Mark N.

What Does Your Tongue Tell You About Your Dental Health?

Your tongue can tell you a lot about your dental health.

It is a barometer for the teeth and mouth. If you see any of the following red flags, please consult your family dentist:

  1. White patches (candidiasis): This may indicate an overgrowth of fungus/yeast in the mouth. This tongue condition is often seen in pregnant women, newborns, or senior citizens who have dry mouth or wear dentures. Also at risk are people with weakened immune systems including diabetes or people taking antibiotics. This can be treated easily with antifungal medication and a more thorough oral hygiene regimen.  
  2. Pale and smooth: A pale tongue can indicate low iron levels or anemia. *** Anemia is a decrease in red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood. Symptoms may include fatigue, weakness, or shortness of breath. People who have it become noticeably pale. Pregnant women typically have anemia.  We would work with your physician and it can be treated with iron pills, blood transfusions, or hyperbaric oxygen.
  3. White lacy pattern: This may be a sign of the tongue and/or inner cheeks having oral lichen planus. This is when the immune system is fighting against the cells in the mouth. It may also have sore red patches.  This can be treated with changes in diet, oral products, or topical medications.
  4. Yellow-tinted tongue: This may indicate acid reflux, infection, or black hairy tongue.
  5. Smooth, red, and patchy looking with a white border: Areas resembling this description can be indicative of a harmless and common condition known as geographic tongue. These areas may appear to move around and may be sore and irritated by spicy foods. The cause of geographic tongue is not known, but it can run in families.
  6. Black or brown tint: The tongue has a dark discoloration that is from an overgrowth of the little projections on the surface of the tongue known as papillae. This unsightly condition of black or brown discoloration gives it a black and hairy appearance. It can be caused by smoking, poor oral hygiene, or a diet high in stained foods or beverages  It looks alarming but is actually harmless. Your dentist will typically prescribe improved oral hygiene which includes scraping or brushing the tongue.
  7. “Strawberry” patterns: The tongue is swollen and bumpy tongue and resembles a strawberry. It may indicate food or drug allergies, strep throat, or Kawasaki Disease. Kawasaki Disease is a syndrome of unknown cause. It is where the blood vessels become inflamed in the body. Children under five typically have a high fever. It lasts for more than five days and medications do not affect it.

Several of these tongue conditions are harmless and eventually go away. However, several of them may indicate more serious health conditions, possibly even oral cancer. We recommend that anyone experiencing these symptoms, see their dentist for a consultation. They can help diagnose the condition and recommend proper treatment.

We also recommend that everyone is seen every 6 months to help monitor their oral health care.  All Smiles Bethesda has experienced dentists and dental hygienists who can take care of your dental needs.  If you would like to schedule an appointment at our family dentistry, please call us at 301-984-9646 or  info@allsmilesbethesda.com or lorraine@allsmilesbethesda.com

We serve the Bethesda, Rockville, Silver Spring, and the Washington, DC area.

*** For more information on Anemia, read this article from the Mayo Clinic website.



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