Say Ahhh: What Your Tongue is Telling You About Your Dental Health

Posted On Wednesday, 21 December 2016
Say Ahhh: What Your Tongue is Telling You About Your Dental Health

Your tongue is unique to you, and you may be surprised to know that you can tell a lot about your health by looking at it.

Head to the mirror and stick your tongue out. If you’re healthy, your tongue should be an even pink color and you should be able to see tiny bumps over the surface. These bumps are called papillae. There are four different types of papillae on the tongue.

Filiform papillae: This type covers most of the front of your tongue. Unlike the other papillae, they do not contain taste buds, but give your tongue its slightly abrasive surface.

Fungiform papillae: Found on the upper surface, the tip and sides of your tongue, these papillae have the ability to discern five tastes: bitter, sweet, sour, salty and umami.

Foliate papillae: These are found on the sides of your tongue in short vertical folds. They contain many taste buds.

Circumvallate papillae: Found at the back of your tongue, circumvallate papillae also contain taste buds.

What Your Tongue Reveals About Your Health

Your tongue is made up of a group of muscles, which you use all the time for speaking, eating, and swallowing. If you are having a problem with it, it can be very uncomfortable. Your dentist can tell a lot about your health by the condition of your tongue, from whether you drink a lot of soda to whether you have an eating disorder.

Here’s a rundown on what the appearance of your tongue can tell you about your health.

Vitamin Deficiency

If you’re experiencing a burning sensation on your tongue or the surface is peeling, you may have an iron, folate or vitamin B12 deficiency. If your tongue is unusually pale in color, you may need some extra vitamin C.

Yeast Infection

If you have a thick, white coating on your tongue, you may be suffering from a yeast infection known as thrush. However, a white coating may also be a sign of dehydration or caused by drinking alcohol or smoking.

High Cholesterol

If your tongue is purple in color, it can be a sign of high cholesterol and poor circulation, which has resulted in stagnant blood gathering in your tongue. If your tongue is often purplish in color, you should seek medical advice.

Bacterial Overgrowth

If you have too much bacteria growing on your tongue, it will have a black, hairy appearance. This may arise if you have recently taken a course of antibiotics. You shouldn’t be too concerned about this condition, as it can be easily remedied by brushing the surface of your tongue with your toothbrush, or using a tongue scraper twice each day until your tongue looks healthy again.


These are small sores than can occur on the tongue, gums or inner cheeks. They can be quite painful and usually last around 7-14 days. Sometimes, they appear if you have bitten your tongue or cheek. Ulcers can also be triggered by fatigue, stress or a vitamin deficiency. If you have an ulcer on your tongue that persists for longer than 14 days or is bleeding, you should seek medical advice as it may be a sign of a serious condition such as oral cancer.

Your Tongue & Your Dental Treatment

The condition of your tongue can, in some cases, affect or slow down your orthodontic treatment, or even cause a dental emergency. Emergencies don’t always happen at convenient times, and if you’re having problems and your regular dental surgery is not open, you may be wondering, “how can I find an emergency dentist office near me?” Don’t panic. If you look online you will be able to find one nearby that can help.

Keeping Your Tongue Clean

Keeping your tongue clean will help avoid bad breath. You should clean your tongue each time you brush and floss your teeth. All you need to do is rub the surface gently with your toothbrush. If you wish to perform a more thorough cleaning, you may use a tongue scraper. These are plastic tools specially designed for this purpose. They work by gently stripping away the layer of debris attached to your tongue.

Brushing and flossing regularly and using an anti-bacterial mouthwash not only keeps your teeth, gums and mouth healthy, but these practices are also essential for your overall health. If you haven’t seen your dentist in the last 12 months, call today and make an appointment for a check-up.

Mike Plambeck

Mike Plambeck is a dental marketing professional who writes about the world of online dental marketing as well as educational dental health topics. He lives in Lincoln, NE, and raises two kids, Noah and Dani, along with his wife Marissa.

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