Our tongues contain flexible muscles that allow us to speak, chew, suck and swallow. The tongue is covered in touch and taste receptors that act as defenders to our bodies, enabling us to relish or avoid various foods. To know about problems in your mouth, stick out your tongue and look in the mirror. A healthy tongue appears pink and covered with small nodules (papillae). Any variation from your tongue's normal appearance may be cause for concern.
Food trapped in the gaps between the papillae leads to bacterial growth and bad breath (halitosis). Dryness in mouth due to dehydration or if saliva is reduced by dry mouth or siogren's syndrome, or if you breathe through your mouth (while asleep).
There may be a whitish-grey coating if your mouth hygiene is poor. A black, hairy tongue may indicate severe illness.
A simple and effective way to remove furry coating is by brushing your tongue with a tooth brush or tongue scraper regularly.
Deficiencies of vitamins (B12 or folic acid) or minerals (iron or zinc) can produce soreness, a smooth red tongue, and/or taste abnormalities.
SORE PATCHES OR ULCERS
Ulcers are more common in younger people and may last a couple of weeks.
Ulcers are triggered by stress, hormones, trauma (from tooth edges), foods (including nuts or fruit), additives used in toothpaste, and over the counter painkillers or mouth lozenges.
Sore white or red patches (on the tongue or anywhere in the mouth) are signs of an immune system disorder, abnormal cell changes or, rarely, mouth cancer.
Any abnormal patch, sore/ulcer, lump, bleeding or discoloration that lasts more than a couple of weeks should be shown to your physician
TIPS FOR TONGUE HEALTH
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Limit sugary or acidic drinks that can cause tooth decay
- Brushing teeth and your tongue twice daily helps to keep your mouth fresh
- Quit smoking - it's a risk factor for mouth cancer and causes bad breath
- Drink alcohol within recommended limits as it may cause dry mouth & tongue irritation
- Have regular dental checks