What Can Your Tongue Tell You About Your Health? What Can Your Tongue Tell You About Your Health?

What Can Your Tongue Tell You About Your Health?


Did you know your tongue is responsible for tasting food thanks to its 2,000 to 4,000 taste buds? Additionally, your tongue hosts many bacteria in your mouth, some of which positively affect your health while others can lead to problems.

Various factors, such as your hydration levels and what you've consumed, can alter the colour of your tongue.

What Does A Healthy Tongue Look Like?

Your tongue is healthy when it is pink, moist, and pain-free. Papillae, which are small nodules and bumps that contain taste buds, cover the surface of your tongue.

1. If Your Tongue Has A Yellow Coating

A yellow or brown coating on your tongue could be due to poor oral hygiene, smoking, drinking alcohol, or consuming a lot of coffee or black tea.

Using products that contain thymol, menthol, witch hazel, peroxides, eucalyptus, or alcohol and having a dry mouth can also cause a yellow coating.

It's essential to consult a doctor if your tongue, face, and eyes appear yellow, as this could indicate liver or gallbladder issues.

2. If Your Tongue Is White.

There are several reasons for this, including:

Oral Thrush

Oral thrush, a yeast infection of the mouth's mucous membranes, can be identified by a thick white coating on the tongue. It's prevalent in infants and can be transmitted from a breastfeeding baby's mouth to a mother's nipples. Over-the-counter antifungal medicines are effective for treatment.

Lichen Planus

Lichen planus is characterized by inflammation in the mouth or other body parts, presenting as a white lacy pattern on the tongue and inside the mouth.


Leukoplakia, often caused by smoking, manifests as a white patch on the tongue, gums, or the inside of the cheeks. Consult a medical professional if you observe this condition, as there's a slight risk it may progress to mouth cancer over time.

3. If Your Tongue Is Sore And Bumpy

Papillae on the back of the tongue are common and are essential in their function. Experiencing a painful and bumpy tongue may indicate infection or inflammation due to accidental trauma, such as biting or burning.

Consider using readily available pain relievers like ibuprofen, paracetamol, or a topical gel applied directly to the affected area to alleviate discomfort.

4. If You Have Tongue Ulcers.

Ulcers in the mouth, commonly known as canker sores, can develop on the tongue. There are various causes of such ulcers, including biting the tongue or damaging it with a toothbrush. Ulcers can also be caused by pregnancy or certain medications.

Stress, fatigue, and anxiety are other common triggers of mouth ulcers. A recent study discovered a strong association between experiencing mouth ulcers and exhibiting symptoms of depression.

Typically, mouth ulcers disappear on their own within a few weeks. However, avoiding spicy, salty, and acidic foods and toothpaste containing sodium lauryl sulphate may help alleviate the pain caused by a particularly painful ulcer.

A pharmacist may suggest using a gel, spray, or mouthwash to speed up the healing process. If a mouth ulcer fails to heal, seek medical attention, as it can be a rare indication of mouth cancer.

5. If Your Tongue Is Swollen.

Glossitis, an inflammation of the tongue, may cause a swollen tongue. This condition can result from a dry mouth, an allergic reaction, injury, or a nutritional deficiency.

If you experience tongue swelling after consuming a particular food, it is essential to seek medical advice immediately. This swelling can spread to the back of the throat, causing breathing difficulties.

6. If Your Tongue Is Black And Looks Hairy.

When dead skin cells accumulate on the tongue's papillae, it can result in a black, hairy appearance. This can trap food and bacteria and may be caused by smoking, poor oral hygiene, a dry mouth, or a diet of predominantly soft foods. To address this, consider cleaning or scraping the tongue, flossing, and maintaining a healthy diet.

7. If Your Tongue Is Red.

Children are most commonly affected by Kawasaki disease, a rare but severe illness that results in an inflamed and red tongue.

Scarlet fever, a bacterial infection, can also cause a red tongue and symptoms such as a fever, sore throat, and a rash across the body. Anaemia caused by a deficiency in vitamin B12, iron, or folic acid can also lead to a redder tongue.

How Can I Look After My Tongue Health?

Taking care of your tongue is just as crucial as maintaining good oral hygiene for your teeth. Here are some essential steps to follow:

  • Stay Well-Hydrated By Drinking Plenty Of Water. Hydration helps flush away bacteria and food particles from your tongue and prevents dry mouth, which can increase the risk of fungal infections and tooth decay.

  • Clean Your Tongue Regularly Using A Toothbrush, tongue scraper, or cleaner. This practice aids in removing bacteria and dead cells from the tongue's surface, which can cause bad breath.

  • Quit Smoking, as it irritates your tongue and contributes to conditions like leukoplakia.

  • Chew Sugar-Free Gum to stimulate saliva production. Saliva helps rinse away bacteria, clear food debris, reduce acid in your mouth, and alleviate dry mouth.

When Should I See A Doctor?

If you have any concerns regarding these symptoms, especially if there's no apparent temporary cause, it's advisable to consult a healthcare professional. Doctors recommend seeking medical advice if:

  • You're anxious about changes in the colour or sensation of your tongue.

  • You observe any unusual lumps, bumps, or sores on your tongue.

  • You're experiencing unexplained and severe tongue pain that persists for several days.

  • Itchiness worsens and doesn't subside.

  • You have a persistent white patch in your mouth for over two weeks.

If you require medical assistance from the comfort of your home, you can consult with a doctor online via Mobi Doctor.


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