What Your Tongue Says About You

The mouth is the gateway to the body.  Having a healthy body overall requires having a healthy mouth.  We know that the health of the teeth and gums can have an impact on the rest of the body. 

Did you know that the mouth can also tell us something about problems in other areas of the body?  Your tongue is a fascinating example of this.  Here, we will explain what your tongue says about you.

Dehydration

Your tongue should be pink, wet and bumpy.  If the tongue appears white in color or looks like there is a coating covering it, your mouth may be dry.  A dry mouth is not a healthy mouth. 

Saliva is an essential part of oral health, and your body cannot make saliva without a great water supply.  Dehydration impairs your body’s ability to make saliva, and therefore, leads to dry mouth.  When the mouth is dry, the tongue is not only susceptible to plaque buildup or coatings; it is also at risk for fungal infections, called thrush

Many people are unaware that their mouths are dry.  If your dentist tells you that your mouth seems overly dry, it is important that you take measures to address the problem.  The first step is increasing your water intake.  Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and beverages that are high in sugar will help you fight dehydration, too.  Ask your doctor for more suggestions on how to improve dry mouth.

Dehydration leads to other health problems in the body, and the first sign of it might just be visible on your tongue!

Hormone Problems

Hormone problems are weird.  They can cause seemingly unrelated signs and symptoms.  The tongue is a perfect example of this. 

Patients with undiagnosed or untreated Hashimoto’s disease may experience an unusually enlarged tongue, a severely dry mouth, and an altered sense of taste.  Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid gland, impairing its ability to make thyroid hormone.  These patients typically have thyroid hormone deficiencies, and these tongue symptoms could be your first clue that you have a problem.

Another hormone that can affect the tongue is estrogen.  Women undergoing menopause may experience a variety of symptoms on the tongue, including a dry mouth, a bitter or metallic taste, and an inflammatory problem known as “geographic tongue”.  This unusual tongue disorder, officially called migratory glossitis, results in painful, smooth, red patches on the surface of the tongue that change location over time.

GI or Autoimmune Disorders

Someone who suffers from frequent aphthous ulcers (canker sores) should undergo testing with his or her medical doctor to rule out food allergies, GI problems, and autoimmune disorders.  Recurrent ulcers in the mouth could indicate the presence of problems like Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, or Celiac Disease.  These also frequently cause severe dry mouth as a symptom.

Nutritional Deficiencies

The tongue can also alert us to a variety of nutritional deficiencies.  Because the tongue’s tissue is delicate and rapidly turning over, changes in nutrition are evident relatively quickly.

Zinc Deficiency

A deficiency in the mineral Zinc can lead to ulcers, glossitis (inflammation of the tongue), burning mouth syndrome, and geographic tongue.  Zinc is important for a healthy immune system, and it supports the respiratory system for good oxygen exchange.

Vitamin B Deficiencies

Vitamin B deficiencies, especially B9 and B12, can cause signs on the tongue.  These vitamins are important immune boosters, and when they are lacking, the tongue will show it.  You may experience burning sensations in the tongue, glossitis, and a beefy, red appearance.

Iron Deficiency

An iron deficiency may appear in the tongue as a shiny, smooth surface (as opposed to the pink, bumpy texture the surface should have).  The tongue can appear to be swollen, pale and unnaturally smooth in texture when someone is anemic.

More Questions about Your Tongue?

Call Prosper Family Dentistry at 972-347-1145 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Jill, Dr. Cara and Dr. Summer.  We can evaluate the current state of your tongue and help you understand how to keep it (and your whole mouth) as healthy as possible.  We love helping our patients make the connection between oral health and the health of the entire body!

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