What Your Tongue Can Tell You about Your Health

16 October 2014

When it comes to oral health, most people often overlook their tongue. However, the colour, texture and moisture of your tongue can reveal more than just oral health problems, including vitamin and immune deficiencies. In fact, the tongue is central to diagnoses in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Surface changes on the tongue can affect its appearance, but what does it mean for your health?


The colour of your tongue can tell you a lot, but on the surface it could also be a number of possible things. For example, a white coating on the tongue can create a perfect environment for bacterial infections and can indicate an infection. The same is true for a yellowish colour, but it could also mean gastric reflux. A healthy tongue is a warm pink shade. A dark brownish colour could be a result of what’s in your diet or possible side effects of medications. Drinking a lot of coffee, smoking or chewing tobacco can temporarily stain the tongue too. Brushing your tongue will usually get it looking normal again. A really red tongue can indicate a nutritional deficiency such as anemia (lack of iron). Believe it or not, it’s also possible to have a black hairy tongue! It sounds unappealing and worse than it is, but it is can be triggered by bacteria, poor oral hygiene and even antibiotics.


Your tongue is covered with papillae (fuzzy projections that live on the surface of the tongue). They’re so tiny that they usually go unnoticed. However, sometimes they can become elongated which could be a result of dry mouth or a bacterial infection. On the other hand, a bald tongue (without papillae) could indicate a nutritional deficiency, oral yeast infection or celiac disease.

Sore Spots

Sore spots, such as canker sores or mouth ulcers, can appear anywhere in the mouth including the tongue. They can be caused by a number of things including: biting your tongue, having sensitivity to certain foods or even certain vitamin deficiencies. A normal canker sore should clear up within about a week. If it doesn’t, it could indicate a serious disease like oral cancer and should be looked at by your dentist immediately.

Taking Care of Your Tongue

Cleaning your tongue as part of your everyday oral hygiene routine is essential and will help to remove the coating that holds bacteria and causes bad breath. A tongue scraper is more effective than a brush alone, and mouthwash can also help to fight off some of the bacteria living in your mouth.

Oakville Dental Place Office

At Oakville Dental Place Office we believe your oral health is an important part of your overall health. We offer a range of oral health services, from routine check-ups and regular dental cleanings, to more comprehensive care. Have any questions? Contact us today!




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