What Your Tongue Says About You

We’ve come across several posts talking about tongues this week, containing color and texture guides which suggest the shade and physical attributes of your tongue may be an indication of specific health needs. Articles in lifehealth.com, the ADA and ShareCare touched on some interesting facts about the tongue’s vital role, including their impact on oral health and which physical characteristics are cause for concern.


While Dr. Salee isn’t convinced that all occurrences of a blue tongue indicate a higher likelihood of being affected by kidney disease, he found many of the color associations in BoldSky to be generally accurate. “A white tongue is often a sign of dehydration and can mean higher levels of fungal growth in the body, while pale pink is mostly indicative of a healthy mouth and body.”


Light Pink: Light pink is known to be the ideal color of the tongue, indicative of a healthy body.



Bright Red: A tongue that is bright red in color may be the sign of a heart disorder or blood disease. A glossy, bright red tongue may be a sign that your body is lacking vitamin B12 or iron.

“Vitamin B12 and iron are needed to mature papillae on the tongue,” says Naomi Ramer, DDS, director of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology at Mount Sinai Hospital. “If you are deficient in those vitamins, you lose those papillae, which can make your tongue appear very smooth.” -RedersDigest.com



Yellow: A tongue is yellow in color can indicate stomach or liver problems.


Pale: A pale tongue can denote that you’re suffering from vitamin and mineral deficiencies.


White: A white tongue usually indicates dehydration. It also sometimes indicates fungal infection and flu.


Black: A black tongue may signal the need for improved oral hygiene, but is usually not cause for major concern.

“We have papilla, small bumps on the surface of our tongue, which grow throughout our lifetime,” explains Ada Cooper, DDS, an American Dental Association consumer advisor spokesperson and practicing dentist in New York City. Papillae are small, nipple-like structures on the upper surface of the tongue that give the tongue its characteristic rough texture.

Papillae are usually worn down by chewing and drinking, but sometimes they can become overgrown, which makes them more likely to harbor bacteria or become discolored from food. This can cause bad breath or taste abnormalities. “Typically [black and hairy tongue] is brought on by smoking, drinking coffee and dark teas, or poor dental hygiene,” says Jack Der-Sarkissian, MD, a family physician with Kaiser Permanente in Southern California. “Removing the offending cause, like smoking, and brushing the tongue or using a tongue scraper, may be all you need.”-ReadersDigest.com


Your tongue can be helpful in detecting and diagnosing health concerns. Certain changes in color, texture or presence of spots on the tongue can indicate underlying issues, while others are completely normal. Tongue sensitivity, swelling and the presence of painful can be caused by allergies, vitamin deficiencies or mouth cancer. However, canker sores and a burning sensation may be the result of stress, hormones or simply using the wrong toothpaste. If you’re experiencing any uncomfortable sores or sensitivity on the tongue, be sure to see your dentist right away.


For a healthy mouth, be sure to keep your tongue clean.


“All those bumps and grooves on your tongue are a haven for bacteria and could be contributing to your bad breath because of the gases they give off, says Dr. Matthew Messina, a consumer advisor for the American Dental Association. It’s important to take care of the tongue in addition to regular brushing and flossing.” –American Dental Association

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