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Why Does My Tongue Look Like This?


Woman with healthy teeth and normal tongue appearance

Your tongue has a busy and active role in your daily life. It’s essential for chewing, swallowing, tasting food, cleans your teeth, and helps you speak. So when there’s something wrong with your tongue, you don’t want to ignore it.

Here are some common tongue concerns and the possible causes behind these issues.

What Causes a White Tongue?

One of the first things you should do if you have a white tongue is check your oral hygiene routine.

A tongue turning white is often due to poor oral hygiene. When plaque bacteria grow on the tongue, it can develop a white film. Try brushing your teeth more often, also scrubbing your tongue each time you do.

If tooth brushing doesn’t improve the color of your tongue, then you should consider the possibility of a yeast infection. Also called thrush, this overgrowth of fungus is easy to treat. You may be susceptible to thrush if you use an inhaler, have diabetes, are taking chemotherapy, or are on a course of antibiotics.

Be alert to signs of leukoplakia if you use tobacco. Leukoplakia is a patch of irritated and scarred tissue that’s over-producing cells to protect itself. These white patches that can develop on your tongue could become cancerous so they should be checked by a dentist regularly.

Oral lichen planus creates a webbed network of lacy white lines over the surface of the tongue. Lichen planus is still something of a mystery to medical professionals. It’s most often linked to immune system problems. Improved oral hygiene may help but you can also talk with your doctor about taking an appropriate medication if the condition is painful for you.

Why Is Your Tongue Bright Red?

Healthy tongues should be pink, but a bright red tongue can signal trouble.

A red tongue may be connected to conditions such as:

● Strep throat ● Scarlet fever ● Vitamin deficiencies ● Dry mouth

To make a red tongue pink and healthy again, you’ll need to address the underlying cause with your dentist and even your doctor.

Lumps and Bumps on Your Tongue

Tongues are covered with bumps called papillae. These bumps come in different sizes and can get inflamed when injured. Canker sores and cold sores can also cause strange lumps on the tongue. If you have an area that’s hard after biting it repeated times, then the growth could be a fibroma.

Is a Black Tongue Normal?

Those papillae on your tongue will keep growing if there’s nothing there to wear them down. As they grow long, they pick up stain and darken turning into a harmless condition called black hairy tongue. While there isn’t any actual hair involved, most people hate the look of a black tongue. The good news is that it will usually go away on its own, especially with improved oral hygiene.

Strange Shapes and Spots on Your Tongue

Your tongue may have a deep line down the middle. This is called a fissured tongue. It’s just a variation that’s usually present since birth. You may have to brush your tongue carefully every day to prevent bacteria from growing in the groove, but this condition is harmless otherwise.

A geographic tongue may cause some strange shapes. Geographic tongue is when patches of taste buds have worn away with time, leaving outlines that look like continents on a map. They come back and the worn patches can move around to different areas of your tongue. This condition is also not dangerous.

You may have a scalloped tongue if your teeth press against it and leave an impression. The marks should go away on their own.

Is Your Tongue Healthy?

Not sure if what you see on your tongue is normal? Get a complete oral health checkup in Tacoma by scheduling a visit to Duke Bui, DDS.

Dr. Bui will help you find out what’s behind the appearance of your tongue.

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