You probably don’t look at your tongue very often. Even when you brush your teeth, you may not take a moment to peek at your tongue to make sure it looks healthy and normal. However, medical science has shown that there’s good reason to do so.
Beyond tasting food and aiding speech, your tongue can help you diagnose health issues and vitamin deficiencies. A healthy tongue is pink and covered in white bumps called papillae. If it looks any different, it may be indicative of an overall problem with your health.
If your tongue is white:
Patches of white on your tongue may simply be a sign that your tongue is irritated. This is common in smokers.
However, a white tongue can also be an indication that your immune system is weakened or even a precursor to cancer. If it doesn’t go away on its own after a few days, you should make an appointment to get checked out by a doctor.
If your tongue is red:
Most commonly, a red tongue indicates a deficiency in vitamins and folic acid. In most cases, it can be resolved by adjusting to a more healthful diet.
In rare cases, a red tongue can be a symptom of scarlet fever and Kawasaki disease, both of which require immediate medical attention. How can you tell if you have one of these diseases rather than a simple vitamin deficiency? Diseases will be accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever.
If your tongue is black:
The nodules on your tongue, papillae, collect bacteria. If you have insufficient or poor oral hygiene, you may be giving these bacteria the chance to thrive and grow. When it does, it appears black.
If the idea of a black, hairy tongue grosses you out, like it does us, then consider it another good reason to brush and floss your teeth daily and go the dentist regularly!