When your dentist or dental hygienist tells you to stick out your tongue, it's not an opportunity to show defiance. A tongue that has an abnormal color, texture or size can be a sign of a medical problem. If your tongue doesn't look or feel normal, here are some clues as to what may be wrong with your body.
Characteristics of a Healthy Tongue
A healthy tongue has a pale-red color. In other words, it's pink but not pale pink, bright red or purple. The surface is covered with papillae, that contain taste buds. But the edges are smooth, without any deep dents. Your tongue should also be in proportion to the size of your body and not be swollen. It shouldn't be either too wet or dry but somewhat moist.
- Bright Red—A scarlet or bright-red tongue can mean you might be deficient in vitamin B12, which is vital for the production of red blood cells. Not getting enough B12 can cause neurological issues such as dementia.
- Pale—Having a pale tongue can suggest that you're weak because you've been sick, over-worked, have anemia or a slow metabolism. It can also be a red flag for depression.
- Purple—This can mean your cholesterol may be too high, which can cause heart issues. What's more, it can also suggest chronic bronchitis. This condition restricts your airwaves from delivering oxygen to your bloodstream. Therefore, promptly see a doctor if you continue to have a purple tongue, as this can be life threatening.
- White—A white tongue can be the result of dehydration, smoking or dry mouth from breathing through your mouth. Your tongue appears white because dead cells and bacteria are lodged in the papillae, which are the tiny bumps that give the tongue texture.
- A glossy, wet tongue can indicate that your body may be retaining too many liquids.
- A frothy texture on your tongue is generally caused by windy conditions.
- Bumps on the tip of a tongue can imply you're allergic to certain medications or foods. It can also mean you have a viral or bacterial infection.
- Patchy lesions that resemble road maps can indicate what's known as geographic tongue, which occurs in about three percent of Americans. Although most people with this condition don't have symptoms, some experience pain and a burning feeling in the mouth.
- A cracked tongue can be a symptom of stress. Cracks on the tongue are typically found on the tongue's midline.
- A raw tongue, resembling dark-red, raw meat, is usually an indication of heat deficiency, severe consumption (tuberculosis) or not consuming enough liquids.
A swollen or enlarged tongue, known medically as macroglossia, can be the result of:
- Injuries—For example, your tongue can swell from burned food or hot liquids.
- Medications—Certain medications can cause a tongue to swell, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors for treating hypertension.
- Allergies—Some people have allergic reactions to foods or bee stings, which can cause a swollen tongue.
- Amyloidosis—This is a disorder caused from abnormal protein deposits in the body tissues, which can also lead to tongue swelling.
If you have any type of tongue abnormality, don't hesitate to get a professional diagnosis, along with medical help. It could be a sign of an underlying health problem. A dentist at http://www.nwidentist.com/ could be a good source of help.